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920 1893 " 57-U3W 
Wallace, Irving, 1916- I5..00 
, The square pegsj some Americana 
who dared 'to be different,. Knopf , 


Wallace, Wng , 

'^square pegs; some Americans 
moarad ,o be different. Knopf, 




Irving Wallace 


Some Americans Who Dared to Be Different 


Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired 
Memorable Characters in Fiction 

These are Borzoi Books published in New York by 
Alfred A. Knopf 

The Square Pegs 



Some Americans Who Dared 
to Be Different 

by Irving Wallace 


Alfred -A- Knopf 

"They 'were learning to draw" the Dormouse 
went on, "and they drew all manner of things 
everything that began with an M " 

"Why with an M?" said Alice. 

"Why not?" said the March Hare. 



meet Wilbur Glenn Voliva, 'who believed the earth 
was flat, and wherein we learn the need -for encour- 
aging individualism and nonconformity. 3 

in we meet Baron James A. Harden-Hickey, Amer- 
ican ruler of Trinidad, who became an authority on 

the art of suicide. 25 

Wherein we meet George Francis Train, millionaire 
member of the Commune, 'who 'was the first man to 
travel around the world in eighty days. 61 


Wherein we meet Victoria Woodhull, stockbroker, 
spiritualist, and prostitute, who competed with 
Ulysses S. Grant for tenancy of the White House. 100 


. . . Wherein we meet Joshua Norton, self-ap- 
pointed Emperor of the United States and Protector 
of Mexico, who issued orders to Abraham Lincoln. 148 


. . . Wherein we meet Delia Bacon, schoolteacher 
-frustrated in love, who became the implacable en- 
emy of the Bard of Avon. 168 



Wherein we meet John Cleves Syiwnes, hero of the 
War of 1812^ who planned an expedition into the 
interior world through holes in the North and South 
poles. 223 


Wherein we meet Anne Royally widow and author *, 
who interviewed a Chief Executive while he was 
in the nude. 243 

IX- THE FIRST IN THE EAST . . . Wherein we meet 
Timothy Dexter, merchant prince and foe of gram- 
mar, who sent coals to Newcastle and published a 

book without punctuation. 267 

A NOTE ON Principal Sources 3 1 3 

Index FOLLOWS PAGE 3 1 5 




(Brown Brothers) 


(Bro f um Brothers, from origiml negative in the Meserve 


(Bettmann Archive) 


(California State Library) 


(New York Public Library) 


(Library of the Ohio Historical Society) 


(Newburyport [Massachusetts] Public Library) 

The Square Pegs 


In Defense of the Square Peg 

". . . a square person has squeezed hi?nself into 
the round hole" 


On an autumn afternoon in 1932, when I was sixteen 
years old and filled with wonder, I sat in an office in 
the medieval American community of Zion City, Illinois, and 
heard a strange and wealthy man named Wilbur Glenn Voliva 
tell rne that the world was not round. "The world is flat 
like a saucer," Voliva said. "The North Pole is in the center 
of the flat earth, and the South Pole is a great ice barrier 
around the rim. The sky is a solid dome above, like an inverted 
blue basin, and the sun, the moon, the stars hang from it like 
a chandelier from a ceiling." 

This theory, with which I was already familiar, made a 
deep impression on me, not so much for its scientific stimu- 
lation as for its oddity. It was to this incredible interview 
that I like to attribute my first interest in the role played by 
the extreme individualist and nonconformist in our society. 
Furthermore, it was to this interview, I suppose, that I must 
trace the beginnings of this biography of American eccen- 

Of course, I had always known about Wilbur Glenn Vol- 
iva. I had been raised to maturity in the shadow of his singu- 
lar personality. During the first eighteen years of my life I 
dwelt with my parents in the small, pleasant, half -rural, half- 

( 3 ) 

The Square Pegs 

of Zion City, had been one John Alexander Dowie, a Scot 
who studied for the ministry at Edinburgh University and 
then went on to establish a pastorate near Sydney, Australia. 
In 1888 Dowie brought his theories of faith healing to Amer- 
ica. At the Columbian Exposition in Chicago he pitched a 
tent, and there, as Prophet Elijah III, competed with John 
Philip Sousa and Sandow for customers. He soon had 50,000 
followers and sufficient funds to purchase ten square miles of 
land on the shores of Lake Michigan north of Chicago and 
establish his private religious settlement, Zion City. From the 
pulpit of his enormous Christian Apostolic Church he thun- 
dered forth against the sins of sex, oysters, and life insurance. 
He built huge lace, candy, and furniture factories, and he 
made $20,000,000. 

When he tried to spread his gospel Dowie met his first re- 
verses. He failed in New York, in London, and finally in 
Mexico. In desperation, he sent to Australia for one of his 
most successful assistant prophets, a thirty-seven-year-old 
Indiana-born preacher named Wilbur Glenn Voliva. By the 
time Voliva reached Zion City, old Dowie had suffered a par- 
alytic stroke. In a moment of weakness, he gave Voliva 
power of attorney, and Voliva savagely turned upon him. In 
1905 Voliva ordered his superior suspended from the church 
and exiled from Zion City on the charges that he had appro- 
priated $2,000,000 of community funds for private luxuries 
and that he had engaged in polygamy. Dowie was driven to 
insanity and finally to his death two years later. Thereafter, 
Voliva was dictator, and the 6,000 persons who depended 
upon his tabernacle for spiritual comfort and upon his indus- 
tries for physical sustenance were entirely in his grip. 

Yet, when I was led into his presence in an expansive office 
of Shiloh House on the day of our appointment, I was agree- 
ably surprised. In his record I had read only ruthlessness, and 
I had been apprehensive. But seated in the straight chair be- 
hind his walnut desk, he had the look of a benevolent busi- 
nessman. His head was massive, partially bald, and his eyes 


In Defense of the Square Peg 

were quick. He closely* resembled portraits I had seen of 
President William McKinley, but when he grasped his black 
satin robe and began to speak, it was not McKinley but 

Voliva made it plain at once that the Bible was his entire 
scientific library. Astronomers were "ignorant fools." The 
Scriptures suggested a flat world, and Voliva was a funda- 
mentalist. The earth was as "flat as a saucer, a pancake, a 
stove lid." It was surrounded by an enormous wall of ice that 
was the South Pole. "That barrier exists," he said. "If you 
doubt me, then go read the testimony of Sir James Ross, the 
only explorer who ever went all the way around the world 
near the inside of the ice wall, sailing some sixty thousand 
miles and taking nearly four years to make the trip. The Byrd 
expedition was only further proof of that wall. They found 
an unconquerable barrier what I call the falling-oif place, 
the end of the world." 

Voliva's conception of the universe, with its blue, solid 
roof, was equally bizarre. "Books tell you the sun is ninety- 
three million miles away," he said. "That's nonsense. The sun 
is only three thousand miles away, and is only thirty-two 
miles in diameter. It circles above the plane earth, spirally, 
and makes one circuit every twenty-four hours, always at the 
same height. All that talk about the rising and setting sun is 
an optical illusion." On another occasion, when asked to ex- 
plain why he thought the sun so near the earth, he remarked: 
"God made the sun to light the earth, and therefore must 
have placed it close to the task it was designed to do. What 
would you think of a man who built a house in Zion and put 
a lamp to light it in Kenosha, Wisconsin?" 

During our hour meeting, I timorously suggested that I 
had prepared a scientific list of proofs usually given in sup- 
port of a globular earth. These proofs were, indeed, sopho- 
moric, but they were the best I knew at that time, and I 
thought they would serve to draw Voliva out. With great 
forbearance, he asked for my proofs. I presented them in the 

The Square Pegs 

form of a series of questions. Why does a vessel disappear in 
the distance when it steams away? How can astronomers pre- 
dict eclipses? Why is the earth's shadow on the moon round? 
How was Magellan able to circumnavigate the earth? 

Obviously, Voliva had been through all this before, and 
he recited his answers as if by rote. "Ships don't disappear in 
the distance, at all You can see a ship twenty-five miles out 
at sea if you look through field glasses. According to scien- 
tists, the curvature of the earth for those twenty-five miles, 
allowing for refraction, should be three hundred and fifty- 
eight feet. If the earth is round, how can you see your ship 
over a hump of water three hundred and fifty-eight feet 
high? . . . Modern astronomers weren't the first to predict 
eclipses. Before Columbus, when sensible people knew the 
world was flat, they were constantly predicting eclipses with 
accuracy. One old-time scientist, who knew the earth was 
flat, predicted fifteen thousand eclipses and they all turned 
out exactly right. As for that round shadow on the moon, 
the flat earth would still cast a round shadow. A saucer is 
round, isn't it? ... Of course Magellan sailed around the 
world and came back to where he started. He went around 
the flat earth exactly as a Victrola needle goes around a 
phonograph record. Millions of men have sailed around the 
world from east to west, and west to east. It can be done on 
a saucer, too. But do you know of anyone who has ever 
sailed around the world from north to south? Of course not. 
Those who tried fell off . That's why so many explorers have 

Well, that all took place in 1932, and now it seems very 
long ago. The depression years ruined Voliva's industries, ri- 
val churches moved their missionaries in to destroy his reli- 
gious control, and finally a newly enlightened generation re- 
jected his candidates at the polls. His grip was broken. By the 
time he died, in October 1942, Zion City had cigarettes, pork, 
lipstick, and a physician at last. 

Wilbur Glenn Voliva was wrong, of course. He was a 

( 8 ) 

In Defense of the Square Peg 

throwback to a darker era of ignorance and superstition. He 
was a bigot. He was a tyrant. Perhaps he was even a fool. He 
stood for nothing I then believed or now believe. But occa- 
sionally, still, I remember him with grateful affection. For, 
by his existence, he taught me two lessons: first, that I must 
never forget Voltaire's promise to Rousseau: "I do not be- 
lieve in a word that you say, but I will defend with my life, 
if need be, your right to say it"; and second, that I must never 
forget that the nonconformist, no matter how eccentric, no 
matter if pathetically wrong or divinely right, deserves toler- 
ance, respect, and the human freedom to be different. 

The high school debate? 

My colleagues and I won it easily. The judges, you see, 
were also no more than aged sixteen and they, too, in those 
shining years, had not yet become the fainthearted captives of 

If it was Voliva who stimulated my first interest in non- 
conformity, it was certainly the venerable Sydney Smith, 
English preacher, editor, and wit, who inadvertently sug- 
gested the framework for this biographical examination of 
eccentricity. During the course of a lecture delivered before 
the Royal Institution in 1824, Smith stated: 

"If you choose to represent the various parts in life by 
holes upon a table, of different shapes, some circular, some 
triangular, some square, some oblong, and the persons act- 
ing these parts by bits of wood of similar shapes, we shall 
generally find that the triangular person has got into the 
square hole, the oblong into the triangular, and a square per- 
son has squeezed himself into the round hole. The officer and 
the office, the doer and the thing done, seldom fit so exactly 
that we can say they were almost made for each other." 

While Smith's graphic analogy was meant to illustrate the 
variance between most people and the roles assigned to them 
in life, it was corrupted by a passage of time to mean some- 
thing quite different. For from this speech evolved the famil- 


The Square Pegs 

iar expression "like a square peg in a round hole," indicating 
the unusual individualist who could not fit into a niche of his 
society. When I determined to investigate, and recount, in 
terms of human beings, the drama of Americans in history at 
odds with the mores of their times, I decided I would limit 
my search to Smith's "square person" or square peg who was 
trying to fit himself "into the round hole." To my mind, the 
square peg represented the eccentric personality, and the 
round hole represented the pattern of conformity demanded 
by the society in which he lived. 

The usual dictionary definition of conformity is "corre- 
spondence in form, manner, or character; a point of resem- 
blance, as of tastes . . . Harmony; agreement; congruity 
. . Action, or an act, of conforming to something estab- 
lished, as law or fashion; compliance; acquiescence." In short, 
the conformist moves in step with his fellows, following the 
social standards, established and supported by law, religion, 
and custom, generally practiced by the majority in his time. 
Various psychological tests, given through the years, have in- 
dicated that from ninety to ninety-eight persons out of every 
hundred conform to the dictates of their law, religion, and 
custom. They conform for many reasons: because it is easier 
and less exhausting; because it is simpler and less confusing; 
because it is safe and less dangerous; because it enhances the 
ego and invites less disapproval; because it is more relaxing 
and less lonely; and because it is a habit of long training, and 
less radical. No doubt, many of these very reasons for con- 
formity had great appeal to Mary Shelley, who had lived 
with a total nonconformist for eight years. Shortly after the 
drowning of her poet-husband she was urged to send her son 
to an advanced school, where the boy might be encouraged 
to think for himself. "To think for himself!" she exclaimed. 
"Oh, my God, teach him to think like other people!" 

The most spectacular type of nonconformist is, of course, 
the eccentric. The word itself derives from the Greek "out of 
the center." The historical and literary definition of eccen- 

( 10 ) 

In Defense of the Square Peg 

tricky is "deviation from customary conduct; oddity . . . 
divergence from the usual." Psychiatric sources are even 
more explicit. According to one, eccentricity means "off cen- 
ter or unsyinmetrical with reference to a center; hence odd 
in behavior." According to another, eccentricity denotes 
"unusual freedom from conventional types of response." 

While psychiatrists, in their exploration of eccentricity, 
have found that causes vary widely in individual cases, they 
have emerged with a few basic generalities. Most full-time 
eccentrics are regarded as psychopathic personalities who, in 
the words of a British psychiatric dictionary, "have been 
from childhood or early youth abnormal in their emotional 
reactions and in their general behavior, but who do not reach, 
except perhaps episodically, a degree of abnormality amount- 
ing to certifiable insanity, and who show no intellectual de- 
fect. They exhibit lack of perseverance, persistent failure to 
profit by experience, and habitual lack of ordinary prudence." 

Dr. Eugen Kahn, who was Sterling Professor of Psychia- 
try at Yale University, finds that most eccentrics, emerging 
from an insecure childhood, grow up in opposition to their 
environment, intent on making their way alone. Usually they 
become obsessed by some "overvalued idea," and their per- 
sonalities are clouded by dementia praecox, excessive fanati- 
cism, paranoia, and schizophrenia. They may be more imagi- 
native and even more intelligent than the so-called average 
person, but at the same time they are likely to be more im- 
mature and impractical. 

Above all, most psychiatrists seem to agree that the lot of 
the eccentric is unhappier than that of the conforming "aver- 
age personality." If the eccentric is sufficiently integrated to 
succeed in some field, to gain wealth or power, he is admired 
and respected and his oddity is overlooked. But if the eccen- 
tric fails, he is pitied or ridiculed and shunned as something 
strange. Most often, the penalties for deviation from the 
norm are harsh. The eccentric is alone, suspected, and often 
hurt. Constantly he is hounded by society's watchdogs the 

The Square Pegs 

government, the church, the social organization, the commu- 
nity and he suffers physical punishments such as arrest, ex- 
ile, personal violence, or spiritual punishments in the form of 
social boycott and disapproval. 

Yet, despite these unhappy prospects, men have continued 
to indulge in eccentricity sometimes because they could not 
do otherwise, but as often because they preferred the freer 
air of nonconformity. And all through history these few in- 
dividualists, though often persecuted by the many, have had 
encouragement from the best minds of their day. Ralph 
Waldo Emerson dared, as we shall see, to flaunt public opin- 
ion in assisting the eccentric Delia Bacon. "The virtue in most 
request is conformity," wrote Emerson. "Self-reliance is its 
aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and 
customs . . . Whoso would be a man must be a non-con- 

In all ages the eccentric perhaps because of, and not in 
spite of, his nonconformity has furthered the cause of sci- 
ence, built great empires, improved the public welfare, and 
created memorable works of art. In their own time such men 
as Kant, Thoreau, Paganini, Pascal, Disraeli, Poe, Whitman, 
Heine, and Goldsmith were considered eccentric. History 
has recorded countless other names of rare individualists 
ranging from the poet Charles Baudelaire, with his green hair 
and his confessions of cannibalism, to the millionaire business- 
man Russell Sage, with his pride in eight-dollar suits and for- 
mal lunches at which he served only apples all of whom 
contributed to their contemporary society and to civilization. 
Yet, the major bequest of most eccentrics has been something 
less tangible. In subtle ways, they have helped their fellows 
profit by their original example. "Eccentrics do a lot of 
good," Henry Morton Robinson once wrote. "They point 
out what the rest of us forget the delightfully erratic pos- 
sibilities of human life. They get far away from the good, 
the true, and the beautiful, substituting for this dour trinity 

In Defense of the Square Peg 

the rarer qualities of the rare, the cuckoo, and the coura- 

Intolerance for the eccentric has known no geographical 
limits. Yet, possibly, in the West, Europe has been more ap- 
preciative of its irregular personalities than has America. 
Europe, with an older civilization and character, with sharper 
variety in its landscape and nationalities, with more differ- 
ences in its systems of government and teachings and social 
life, has quite naturally bred a greater proportion of eccen- 
trics and has learned to tolerate and even to encourage them. 
Especially is this true in Great Britain. 

England has always had its eccentrics the French like to 
say that "the British prefer to walk in the road, although 
there are pavements laid down for their convenience" and, 
generally, the English have been proud of their most outra- 
geous nonconformists. Edith Sitwell tried to account for this 
happy condition in the security that Englishmen have always 
found in their superiority and tradition. "Eccentricity exists 
particularly in the English . . . because of that peculiar and 
satisfactory knowledge of infallibility that is the hallmark and 
birthright of the British nation." 

In discussing the Whig aristocracy of the eighteenth cen- 
tury in Melbourne, Lord David Cecil also examined this 
English phenomenon of nonconformity: "The conventions 
which bounded their lives were conventions of form only. 
Since they had been kings of their world from birth, they 
were free from the tiresome inhibitions that are induced by 
a sense of inferiority. Within the locked garden of their so- 
ciety, individuality flowered riotous and rampant. Their typ- 
ical figures show up beside the muted introverts of to-day 
as clear-cut and idiosyncratic as characters in Dickens. They 
took for granted that you spoke your mind and followed 
your impulses. If these were odd, they were amused but not 
disapproving. They enjoyed eccentrics: George Selwyn, who 
never missed an execution, Beau Brummell, who took three 

( 13) 

The Square Pegs 

hours to tie his cravat. The firm English soil in which they 
were rooted, the spacious freedom afforded by their place in 
the world, allowed personality to flourish in as many bold 
and fantastic shapes as it pleased." 

In England, Utopia of the individualist, eccentricity has in- 
deed taken on many bold and fantastic shapes. The nation's 
vast and continuing literature of oddity points with pride to 
unusual men and women who would have been quickly 
stunted or stoned in less amiable lands. While the English 
quality of eccentricity has been matched elsewhere as I 
shall attempt to demonstrate in this book nowhere else 
has as much sheer quantity of eccentricity been achieved. 
"Clearly, it is in the individualist phases of society," said 
Richard Aldington, "that the eccentric flourishes. In other 
epochs he becomes a heretic and goes up in flames, or is 
marked down as politically undesirable and is liquidated." In 
England the eighteenth century was particularly amenable to 
the unrestricted growth of the individualist. During sixty- 
nine years of that century there were born four classical ex- 
amples of Sydney Smith's "square human." 

In 1713 occurred the birth of Edward Wortley Montagu. 
His father was a millionaire member of Parliament renowned 
for his miserliness. His mother was the clever and eccentric 
"female traveler," Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who at- 
tained notoriety for her journeys in the Near East and fame 
for her remarkable letters. But, by a dint of perseverance, 
Edward Montagu exceeded his mother in eccentricity. As a 
boy he could curse in Greek and Turkish. At Oxford, when 
he was thirteen, he took his landlady for his mistress. He was 
an ofScer at the battle of Fontenoy, he was a member of 
Parliament for one month, and he was an outstanding Arabic 
scholar. He assumed, and discarded, almost as many religions 
as wives. He was a Protestant, then a convert to Catholicism, 
and at last a Mohammedan. At seventeen he married a 
washerwoman, and then, neglecting to divorce her, he was 
wedded successively to ,a Miss Elizabeth Ashe, to a Catholic 

( H) 

In Defense of the Square Peg 

widow named Caroline Feroe, and to an Egyptian serving- 
girl known as Ayesha. 

At the age of sixty-three Montagu advertised for one more 
wife, demanding only that she be of "genteel birth, polished 
manners and five, six, seven or eight months gone in her preg- 
nancy." This startled no one since, only three years before, 
at sixty, he had asked to be circumcised arguing that Abra- 
ham had been circumcised at ninety-nine so that he might 
make a pilgrimage to Mecca. His gaudy attire forever at- 
tracted crowds. He wore a turban and an embroidered coat 
with diamonds for buttons, but that was not all. "The most 
curious part of his dress," said Horace Walpole, "is an iron 
wig; you literally would not know it from hair." He was 
aware of his oddity, and no less proud. "I have never com- 
mitted a small folly," he once remarked. He died in 1776. 

William Beckford was sixteen years old when Montagu, 
whose Oriental manuscripts he would collect and translate, 
expired in Italy. Beckford followed in the capricious foot- 
steps of his idol. When Beckford was still a child he inherited 
his father's West Indies plantations, one million pounds, and 
the family estate near the village of Fonthill in Wiltshire. His 
education was acquired through private tutors. He learned 
Arabic and Persian from an Orientalist, and he learned to 
play the piano from Wolfgang Mozart. He traveled to 
France, Portugal, and Italy. In Venice he supported an eld- 
erly mistress who had earlier entertained Casanova. Though 
he had married a lady of title, and had had four children, he 
was publicly accused of homosexuality. Scandalous rumor, 
which he never legally denied, revealed to the world that he 
had been seen committing perversion in Powderham with a 
young man named Courtenay. 

Beckford wrote ten or eleven books, two under women's 
names. His masterpiece, admired by Lord Byron, was an Ori- 
ental romance entitled Vathek. He composed it in French, 
and then had a clergyman translate it back into his native 
English. He collected books both rare and popular, scribbled 

( 15 ) 

The Square Pegs 

brilliant criticisms in their margins, and then offered these 
jottings for sale to the publisher Richard Bentley under the 
title of Fruits of Conceit and Flowers of Nonsense, but they 
were rejected as too controversial. He was certainly, as Rich- 
ard Garnett remarked, "the most brilliant amateur in English 
literature." As such, he decided to build a monument to him- 
self. In 1790 he told Lady Craven: "I grow rich and mean to 
build towers." He determined to abandon Fonthill and 
nearby erect the tallest private residence in all Europe. 

Beckford hired the leading architect of the day, James 
Wyatt, and had him construct a wall twelve feet high and 
seven miles in circumference to keep out sight-seers. This 
done, work was promptly started on the Great Tower. Be- 
cause of Beckford's impatience to see his monstrosity com- 
pleted, 500 laborers were employed to work in two shifts 
half by sunlight and half by torchlight. In 1800 the flimsy 
timber-and-cement structure, set on a narrow base, was done. 
It rose 300 feet into the air and the very first mild wind 
broke it in two and sent it crashing to the ground. 

Undeterred, Beckford ordered another Great Tower built 
on the rubble of the old. At an expenditure of 273,000 
pounds, stone was added to the timber and cement, and the 
new 300-foot structure was finished in less than seven years. 
Beckford moved into one of its eighteen cramped, unventilated 
bedrooms. Here, with a Spanish dwarf in livery receiving 
guests, he entertained his friends, among them Lady Emma 
Hamilton, but refused to invite the curious Prince Regent. 
After fifteen years, having lost his income and his fortune, 
Beckford sold the tower for 330,000 pounds to a munitions 
dealer named John Farquhar. He was not surprised to learn 
that, shortly after his own removal to Bath, the tower again 
collapsed in a gale. On a hillside near Bath, Beckford built a 
third tower, this one a mere 130 feet in height, and peopled 
it with dwarfs. His aversions were mirrors and women (spe- 
cial niches were built in the corridors for his maids to hide 
in when he passed). Aged eighty-four, he died in 1844. 

( 16) 

In Defense of the Square Peg 

As Beckford was a devotee of the arts, he may at some 
time have been witness to the dogged eccentricity of a con- 
temporary named Robert Coates, who had been born in the 
West Indies in 1772. Coates, nicknamed Romeo for his pas- 
sionate desire to act, and Diamond for his originality in at- 
tire, became stage-struck in his puberty. In 1809 he invaded 
perhaps assaulted would be the more accurate word the 
London theater. Often referred to as the Gifted Amateur, 
Coates devoted a long and riotous life to proving he was an- 
other Garrick. He was not, but he was certainly as entertain- 
ing. He liked to play Shakespeare, and he designed his own 
costumes for Hamlet and Macbeth as Romeo he appeared 
in white feather hat, spangled cloak, and pantaloons. He wore 
these same costumes in public. Before appearing in a Shake- 
spearean play, he would rewrite it to suit his talents. "I think 
I have improved upon it," he told his shocked friends. In 
Romeo and Juliet he improved the ending by trying to pry 
open Juliet's tomb with a crowbar. If he particularly enjoyed 
playing a scene, he would repeat the same scene three times 
in one evening as his audiences sat stupefied. He was probably 
the worst actor in the history of the legitimate theater. Yet 
he tirelessly tramped up and down the British Isles declaim- 
ing from the boards. Year after year he was met with deri- 
sion and catcalls and hilarity, but he persisted. At a perform- 
ance in Richmond, several spectators were so shaken by 
laughter that a physician had to be summoned to attend 

When theater managers, fearing violence, barred him from 
their stages, he bribed them to let him appear. When fellow 
thespians, fearing bodily injury, refused to act beside him, he 
provided police guards to reassure them. Eventually, by sheer 
persistence and by the audacity of his mediocrity, he became 
a legendary figure decked out in furs, jewels, and Hessian 
boots. He starred in London's leading theaters and re- 
sponded to command performances before royalty. Nothing, 
it seemed, not criticism, not ridicule, not threats of lynching, 

( 17 ) 

The Square Pegs 

could remove him from the footlights. Only death, it was 
agreed, might silence him and save the English stage. But he 
would not die. In his seventy-fourth year, reduced in circum- 
stances, but spouting and gesturing still, he was as active as 
ever. But the year following, on an afternoon in 1 848, a car- 
riage ran him down, and he died. Though English drama sur- 
vived his passing, its comedy would never be the same again. 

While perhaps no English eccentric would ever exceed 
Coates in audacity, it is possible that Charles Waterton, in his 
own field, was his match. Waterton was born of wealthy 
parents in Yorkshire during 1782. At the Jesuit College of 
Stonyhurst he demonstrated a talent for natural history. Sent 
to British Guiana to supervise the family plantations, he dis- 
played the first evidences of his originality during a four- 
month sojourn in the Brazilian jungles. During this explora- 
tion Waterton sought the poison Indians used in their blow- 
guns, which he called wourali and which we know as curare. 
He hoped to employ this poison as a cure for hydrophobia. 
In the course of this and three other trips, Waterton per- 
formed incredible feats of oddity. Moving through the bush 
on bare feet, he captured a python by binding its head with 
his suspenders. On another occasion he was having some dif- 
ficulty pulling a crocodile from the river. "I saw he was in a 
state of fear and perturbation. I instantly dropped the mast, 
sprang up, and jumped on his back." After riding the croco- 
dile forty yards to the bank, Waterton relaxed only briefly. 
He became enchanted with the idea of having a vampire bat 
suck blood from his big toe. He took one into his sleeping 
quarters, and dozed with a foot nakedly exposed, but the re- 
luctant bat preferred the less formidable toe of a neighbor. 

Upon his father's death Waterton returned to England to 
become the twenty-seventh squire of Walton Hall. He de- 
cided to convert the family property into a bird sanctuary. 
He constructed an eight-foot barrier three miles around his 
grounds to keep out beasts of prey and hunters. He brought 
in an ex-poacher to serve as game warden, and he set up a 

( 18 ) 

In Defense of the Square Peg 

telescope for use in bird-watching. His greatest pleasure was 
in clambering up trees and observing his creatures at close 
hand. When he had guests he would invite them to climb 
with him. At the age of eighty like "an adolescent gorilla," 
Norman Douglas observed he was still ascending trees. Oc- 
casionally, as when he visited Vatican City, he would climb 
something else. In 1817 he scaled St. Peter's to its summit, 
and then went thirteen feet higher to plant his gloves at the 
top of a lightning conductor. Pope Pius VII was unamused, 
and made him climb back up again to remove the gloves. 

At Walton Hall, where no gunfire was permitted and 
where all dogs were confined, he dwelt as naturally as the 
first man on earth. He went about barefooted, prayed in a 
private chapel, slept on the floor of his bedroom with a block 
of oak for his pillow, and rose at four o'clock in the morn- 
ing. He occupied himself by building a stable so arranged that 
his horses might converse, by playing practical jokes on 
friends (often pretending to be a dog and biting them), and 
by attempting to fly with the use of homemade wings. His 
hobby was taxidermy. Every nook of his house was filled 
with some strange, preserved specimen. Sometimes, like 
Frankenstein, he created composite creatures made of the 
parts of four animals. Because he was a Catholic he named 
many of these monsters after prominent Protestants. His fa- 
vorite, with the head of a red howler monkey, was called 
The Nondescript and looked startlingly human. 

On the rare occasions when Waterton left Walton Hall he 
was no less eccentric. He visited the London zoo to inter- 
view a savage orangutan recently imported from Borneo. 
Though warned that he would be torn apart, he insisted upon 
entering the cage. "The meeting of those two celebrities," 
said his friend Dr. Richard Hobson, "was clearly a case of 
love at first sight, as the strangers not only embraced each 
other most affectionately, but positively hugged each other 
and . . . kissed one another many times." Waterton visited 
Italy accompanied by a retinue of owls. And finally, excited 

( 19) 

The Square Pegs 

by an American book on ornithology, he traveled to the 
United States in 1824. He saw New York and adored its 
women. He saw Charles Willson Peale, who had painted 
Washington, and who had four sons named Rembrandt, 
Raphael, Titian, and Rubens. He saw Niagara Falls, and hav- 
ing sprained his ankle and been advised that it should be im- 
mersed in water, held his ankle beneath the great Falls. The 
year after returning from America he published a successful 
account of his travels and explorations. In 1829, in. Belgium, 
he met a convent girl who was the granddaughter of a 
Guiana Indian princess and thirty years his junior. He mar- 
ried her at four o'clock one May morning, and for their 
honeymoon took her to Paris to study stuffed birds. In his 
eighty-third year, on his estate, he tripped, fell against a log, 
and was seriously injured. He died in May 1865. 

In the English atmosphere of conformity, mellowed by 
centuries of individualism, such extreme nonconformists as 
Waterton, Coates, Beckford, and Montagu met with little re- 
sistance. In the United States, with its deep-rooted and rigid 
Calvinistic beginnings, similar nonconformists grew and sur- 
vived, but with far more difficulty and with far less tolerance. 
Many reasons have been put forward by sociologists, histo- 
rians, and psychologists to explain the undeviating worship of 
group living and group thinking in America. James Bryce 
credited American conformity to uniform stretches of land- 
scape, to uniform cities, to uniform political institutions 
in federal, state, and municipal government. Everywhere 
schools, libraries, clubs, amusements, and customs were simi- 
lar. "Travel where you will," he wrote, "you feel that what 
you have found in one place that you will find in another." 

Above all, there was the rapid advance of industrial sci- 
ence. In America an all-powerful technology, with its stand- 
ardized techniques and methods of mass production, reached 
its zenith. As technology attracted larger numbers of people 
to urban centers, and compressed them into smaller areas, 
community living became a necessity. This, in turn, encour- 


In Defense of the Square Teg 

aged people to co-operate, and created relationships that in- 
vited similar activities and opinions. 

Gradually there emerged on the American scene, against 
all natural development of culture and against all individual 
traits inherent in every man, two striking attitudes that made 
American conformity broader, more unyielding, and more 
dangerous. The first attitude, assumed by the majority, was 
that the act of becoming average, of being normal, was more 
important than that of being distinct or superior. The second 
attitude, also assumed by the majority, was that the state of 
being well adjusted to the crowd and the community was 
more important than that of being a unique and original hu- 
man being. 

Today this growing affection for the safety of the similar, 
the usual, and the accepted, and the consequent fear of any 
challenging ideas or personalities, presents a serious threat to 
the development of American society. But how then to allay 
this threat? What practical course is open? In his book Must 
You Conform? Dr. Robert Lindner supplied an answer: 

"The first requisite for a teacher or parent who wishes to 
assist the evolutionary process by rearing our young toward 
genuine maturity is that he root out from himself every last 
vestige of the myth of adjustment. He must exorcise from his 
heart and mind, and from his behavior, adulation of the fic- 
tion of conformity that has brought society within sight of 
doomsday and that threatens to engulf the world in another 
long night of medievalism. He must deny that passivity, sur- 
render, conformism and domestication pave the road to hu- 
man happiness and salvation. Instead he must affirm the rights 
of protest and individuality, encourage uniqueness, and be un- 
shaken in an abiding faith that only in these ways will he dis- 
cover himself and the true vocation of his life." 

To be one's self, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is 
more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to con- 
formity. That is the contention and that is the theme of this 
book. Sociologists and psychologists have, in the past, propa- 

( 21 ) 

The Square Pegs 

gated this point of view in their own specialized terms. While 
my own interest, like theirs, is the human animal, I have pre- 
ferred to dramatize the subject as storyteller and biographer. 

Since 1932, when I met Wilbur Glenn Voliva, and since 
1945, when I began to make notes on the gyrations of indi- 
vidualists who had swung away from the safety of society's 
center, I have been rather constantly in the company of the 
American eccentric. I have met him in the pages of yellowed 
newspapers, periodicals, and books. I have visited the arenas 
where once he performed, and have often seen his autograph 
on cracked documents and creased letters. For all of this, I 
may not have loved him, but I have known him well and re- 
spected him. 

To be sure, I have not attempted to include every Ameri- 
can eccentric in this modest examination. There were more 
of these unfettered souls than the reader may imagine, 
though, indeed, altogether too few for the nation's need. I 
have made hard choices. My formula has been simple: I 
would write not about celebrated men and women who were 
possessed of eccentricity, but rather about men and women 
who were celebrated for their eccentricity. 

It was with genuine reluctance that I was forced to dis- 
card Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, Governor of New 
York in 1702, who charged admissions to his private dinners, 
wore his wife's dresses, and taxed all male colonists who used 
wigs; William Miller, the Massachusetts prophet of doom, 
who delivered 3,200 speeches predicting the end of the world 
in 1843 and sold muslin ascension robes at a profit; Hetty 
Green, the miser of Wall Street, who wore newspapers for 
undergarments, subsisted on onions and eggs, dwelt in a fire- 
less tenement, permitted only the lower half of her petticoats 
to be laundered, and was worth eighty million dollars; and 
Joseph Palmer, a New Englander, who persisted in wearing 
a beard in a clean-shaven society and was jeered, beaten, and 
finally sentenced to jail for one year. 

These eccentrics were good, but I feel I have settled upon 

( 22 ) 

In Defense of the Square Peg 

eight who were better. The nonconformists in this book rep- 
resent the complete saga of American eccentricity from the 
days of the founding of the republic to modern times. Their 
stories are not success stories in the familiar language of ac- 
cumulated wealth, power, fame, or contributions to their 
time. True, some, like George Francis Train, were rich, and 
some, like Victoria Woodhull, were politically renowned, 
and some, like Anne Royall, were pioneers in free speech. 
But such tangible accomplishments are not the point. For, 
what these eccentrics offer, beyond diversion, is the example 
of uninhibited personality in America, a trait so lacking in 
this highly organized age. By their presence in these pages it 
is my hope that some small boundaries of sympathy, under- 
standing, and tolerance may be broadened. 

Though these eccentrics contributed little to science, gov- 
ernment, or the arts, it is my belief that they gave something 
of more value to their contemporaries and, as a conse- 
quence, to us, their heirs. A James Harden-Hickey can still 
remind us that the age of the plebiscite and the machine need 
not be an age without dreams and romance. A Delia Bacon 
can remind us that the libraries of scholarship, even if tidy 
and already filled, must always allow room for one more in- 
vestigation, no matter how disorderly. A Timothy Dexter 
can remind us that public hearing and attention need not be 
the private prerogative of the formally educated and the well 
bred. A John Cleves Symmes can remind us that the frontiers 
of science and imagination must know no limits and no 
dogma, but that they may be crossed by anyone in the hope 
that once in a century, by a miracle of freedom and genius, 
a trespasser may contribute to the welfare of all humanity. 

These are the square pegs who would not fit into round 
holes. They went backward when everyone went forward, 
and they went forward when everyone stood still. They said 
nay when others said aye, and they saw black when others 
saw white. Despite suffering, economic and spiritual, they re- 
fused to be garmented in the strait jacket of conformity. 

( 23 ) 

The Square Pegs 

This, and no other, is their achievement and it is enough. 
For when our society no longer has a single square peg, when 
it no longer has a recalcitrant individual out of step, when it 
no longer has a voice that will rise to dissent and disagree and 
persist in an unorthodoxy, then, and only then, will man have 
lost his last battle and his last chance. 

In 1859 I " 10 Stuart Mill, the brilliant and sensitive English 
political economist and philosopher, published On Liberty, In 
it he defended the square peg, and he wrote a warning to gen- 
erations yet unborn: 

"Eccentricity has always abounded when and where 
strength of character has abounded; and the amount of ec- 
centricity in a society has been proportional to the amount 
of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained." 

( 24) 


The King 
of Thirty-Sixth Street 

"We, James, Prince of Trinidad, have resolved to 
commemorate our accession to the throne of 
Trinidad by the institution of an Order of Chiv- 
alry. . . ." 


Surprise -was an emotion few subscribers to the New York 
Tribune felt by the year 1893. During the previous half 
decade, most had been stunned into silent acceptance of every 
new human hydra-head. Through the medium of their favor- 
ite front-page, readers had absorbed cruel and unusual pun- 
ishment at the hands of Ignatius Donnelly, who ran for vice- 
president and published a book resurrecting the lost continent 
of Atlantis from the sea; Anthony Comstock, who disap- 
proved of Little Egypt and was well on his way to destroy- 
ing 1 60 tons of obscene literature; and Dr. Mary Walker, 
who served as a physician during the Civil War and fright- 
ened a Medal of Honor out of Congress with her daily attire 
of frocked coat and striped trousers. 

Yet, despite their resistance to bizarre individualists, even 
the oldest and most calloused Constant Readers blinked on 
the morning of November 5, 1893, when they picked up 
their twenty-four-page Sunday Tribune and read the exclu- 
sive lead story on page one. 

The column-long story, which spilled over into the next 

( 25 ) 

The Square Pegs 

column, was headlined "To Be Prince of Trinidad." The sub- 
headline explained: "He Is Baron Harden-Hickey." Beneath 
that, in slightly smaller type, one more bit of exposition: "His 
Ambition Is To Found A Nation On A Little Island In The 

The opening paragraph of the news story, which would 
have been considered somewhat lackadaisical by latter-day 
Tribune editors and stockholders, stated: 

"If the plans of Baron James A. Harden-Hickey are car- 
ried out there will be a brand new nation brought into exist- 
ence on the face of the earth next spring. That sounds like a 
remarkable undertaking, but Baron Harden-Hickey is confi- 
dent that it can be carried through successfully and as easily 
as many other remarkable and apparently impossible achieve- 
ments. He does not propose to overthrow any established 
government or split any twain. He is not going to encroach 
upon anybody's territory or interfere with anybody's rights. 
He has found a place where nobody lives, which, he says, no- 
body owns, and which is not claimed among the possessions 
of any existing nation. The place is the Island of Trinidad, 
situated in the South Atlantic Ocean, in latitude 20 degrees 
30 minutes south and longitude 29 degrees 22 minutes west. 
It is 700 miles from the coast of Brazil, which is the point of 
land nearest to it. It contains about sixty square miles of terri- 
tory. There Baron Harden-Hickey proposes to found an in- 
dependent state, the head of which shall be sovereign and 
treat on equal terms with the mighty rulers of the earth." 

Five paragraphs later, the Tribune took time out to remind 
its subscribers that this was an authentic scoop. "A Tribune 
reporter found Baron Harden-Hickey at his home last eve- 
ning, and asked him about his extraordinary undertaking. 
Baron Harden-Hickey expressed surprise that the Tribune 
should have learned of his scheme, but added good-naturedly, 
1 know that great newspapers have wonderful means of get- 
ting information. I used to be a newspaperman myself. As for 

( 26) 

The King of Thirty-Sixth Street 

my plans, they are not yet mature, but I will tell you as much 
about them as I can.' " 

What Harden-Hickey did not tell the Tribune, in the 
twelve quotes that followed, and what the Tribune did not 
tell its readers, was that Harden-Hickey planned not only to 
found a new island-nation, but also to crown himself King 
James I of that nation. 

In subsequent months most of New York, as well as the 
rest of America, became more fully acquainted with Baron 
Harden-Hickey 's project. At first, much to the consterna- 
tion of his wife, a Standard Oil and iron heiress, Harden- 
Hickey worked out of his residence at 18 West Fifty-second 
Street in Manhattan. Later he established the more formal 
Chancellerie de la Principaute de Trinidad in a brownstone 
house at 217 West Thirty-sixth Street. While he toured the 
country to arrange for serfs he left an old Parisian friend 
and onetime wine merchant, Count de la Boissiere, behind 
as his Secretaire d'Etat pour les Affaires trangeres. 

In San Francisco, Harden-Hickey purchased a schooner to 
transport colonists to Trinidad and to ferry supplies and mail 
between Trinidad and Brazil. He hired an agent to bargain 
for construction of docks, wharves, a lighthouse, and homes. 
As he planned an idle aristocracy, with four orders of 
chivalry, and as his island-empire had nothing native to sub- 
jugate beyond turtles, Harden-Hickey decided to buy him- 
self a ready-made proletariat. After months of dickering in 
California, he contracted for five hundred Chinese coolies 
to do all the manual labor on the island. Back in New York, 
he ordered a quantity of postage stamps bearing pictures of 
the island, several red flags imprinted with yellow triangles, 
and one sparkling royal crown. 

Constant Readers scratched their heads. Nine days had 
elapsed, and then nine months, and the cuckoo was still 
with them. But between November 5, 1893, when the Trib- 
une first broke the story of Harden-Hickey, and August i, 


The Square Pegs 

1895, when his island-kingdom became an international 
cause celebre, some New Yorkers slowly began to realize 
that what they had on hand was not a madman, but simply 
a human born out of time. It was like having King Arthur 
in we ll Bridgeport, Connecticut. 

James Aloysius Harden-Hickey was born in San Francisco 
on December 8, 1854. His father, E. C. Hickey, was a well- 
to-do Irish miner. His mother was French. Thirty-three 
years after his birth, in a book called Our Writers, an en- 
cyclopedia of famous French authors which he wrote in 
French and had published in Paris, Harden-Hickey included 
a full page of material on himself and his antecedents along- 
side biographies of such other writers as Guy de Maupassant, 
Alphonse Daudet, Victor Hugo and their families. 

"My old Irish family traces its origin to Milesius, King 
of Spain/' he wrote. "Several members of the Hickey family 
have served the French kings as officers in the Irish Brigade. 
One of them was wounded at Fontenoy. The Hardens were 
from Normandy. Their nobility was acknowledged by a 
charter given Antoine de Harden by Henry II in 1556. 
Jacques de Harden, the last offspring from this family, took 
a ship with James II for Kinsale, settled in Ireland, and 
allied himself to the Hickey family." When King James II, 
a converted Catholic, tried to fight the Established Church 
of England, he met strong resistance from clergy and gentry 
alike. By November 1688 William of Orange had landed at 
Tor Bay, and James II was on his way into French exile, 
dutifully followed by the Hickeys, ardent Catholic Royal- 

Harden-Hickey's parents were among San Francisco's 
earliest settlers. As he was born only five years after the 
gold rush, the San Francisco of his youth was one vast 
brawling beerhall. His French-born mother, remembering 
the amenities of the Old World, remembering perhaps that 
not so long before, other Hickeys had known courtlier days 


The King of Thirty-Sixth Street 

at Saint-Germain, suggested that the boy be educated in a 
more cultured climate. 

Harden-Hickey was taken to Paris, It was the Paris of 
Alexandre Dumas, Gustave Flaubert, Jean Troppmann, Cora 
Pearl, the Goncourts, and the young Sarah Bernhardt, "Paris 
at her maddest, baddest and best," a New York correspondent 
reported. Above all, Paris was again part of a storybook 
monarchy, gay and garish in the old tradition. Sober histo- 
rians spoke of "the French Court's glitter and intrigue." 
J. M. Thompson wrote that "the Court had never been so 
formal or magnificent since the time of Louis XV, or so 
frivolous since that of Marie Antoinette." 

Napoleon III, though he appeared ill-cast for his glamor- 
ous role and though he too often resembled a figure mis- 
placed by Madame Tussaud, proved himself a true grandson 
of the earlier Napoleon's Josephine. He instituted the Me- 
daille Militaire for courage in the field of combat. He re- 
sumed the stag hunts, in eighteenth-century costume, at 
Fontainebleau. He constructed the great Paris Opera, and 
he completed the Louvre. He introduced footmen in knee 
breeches and Cent-Gardes in steel helmets to the Tuileries. 
He again made the institution of mistress fashionable: Eliz- 
abeth Howard, the onetime English barmaid, who saved 
20,000 pounds from the generosity of her patrons and 
backed Napoleon's coup d'etat; Marguerite Bellanger, the 
circus rider and acrobat, whose remarkable energies gave the 
Emperor a child and a physical collapse, thereby provoking 
the Empress to rage at her: "Mademoiselle, you have got to 
go! You are killing the Emperor!"; and the Contessa 
Nicchia de Castiglione, the Florentine beauty who counted 
the Pope her friend and the King of Sardinia her lover, 
whose mission by order of her King was to win Napoleon's 
affection for herself and for her homeland and whose mis- 
sion was, at least partially, accomplished. 

This dazzling, dreamlike environment was James Harden- 
Hickey's childhood playground. It made a lasting imprint 

( 29) 

The Square Pegs 

on his memory. For while impressionable youngsters in the 
New World were being prepared for the American Century 
by Ragged Dick and Mark The Match Boy, Harden-Hickey 
was becoming convinced that Napoleon III, who had won 
the Crimean War, restored the Pope to Rome, and sent 
Maximilian and Carlotta to Mexico, could defeat and domi- 
nate anyone on earth. The Emperor could not, of course, 
as the Germans proved a few years later at Sedan, but 
Harden-Hickey always thought so. He would never quite 
forget Napoleon's waxed mustache, the giant Zouave guards, 
the Empress Eugenie in her carriage, the jingling of medals 
and the rattling of swords in the Tuileries and about the 
Elysees, the prefect Baron Haussmann's sweeping grand 
boulevards (widened so that mobs could no longer impede 
troop movements by throwing furniture into the streets), 
and, as he would later write, "the Parisian crowds gaily 
leaving the theatres to fill the brilliantly lit cafes with their 
windows sparkling as from a thousand fires." 

He was soon taken from Paris and enrolled in the Jesuit 
College at Namur, Belgium, near Liege. The change seems 
to have distressed him. The only record Harden-Hickey left 
of that experience was in an autobiographical novel, Sou- 
venirs of a Gommeux, published in Paris during 1877. 
Gommeux was slang of that period for dandy. In this novel 
Harden-Hickey sends his hero, Henri, "son of wealthy 
though honest people," to a Jesuit College in Belgium. "Lock 
up the youth, as is the habit nowadays," wrote Harden- 
Hickey, "and they become sullen, unhealthy; their sap dries 

After the Jesuit College, Harden-Hickey was sent to the 
University of Leipzig for two years to study law. When 
he was nineteen it was agreed that he would make the French 
Army his career. He passed the competitive examinations for 
the Military College established by Napoleon I in 1808 at 
Saint-Cyr-L'cole, three miles west of Versailles. This, ap- 
parently, was more like it. In Saint-Cyr, where students wore 

( 30) 

The King of Thirty-Sixth Street 

uniforms, swords, and monarchist manners, Harden-Hickey 
had little difficulty in conjuring up a very real picture of 
the imperial court. 

In 1875 Harden-Hickey was graduated, with honors, from 
Saint-Cyr, and shortly thereafter his father died in San 
Francisco. There was a small inheritance. Reluctantly, Har- 
den-Hickey decided to abandon his military career and to 
spend the money on a new profession in France. For two 
years he dabbled in sculpture, and, under the pseudonym of 
Saint-Patrice, wrote and sold his first novel. Angered by the 
attacks of Parisian Republicans on the Catholic Church, he 
turned his full attention to writing. By 1878 he had been 
made a Baron of the Catholic Church for his numerous 
pamphlets defending the Faith and had married the Countess 
de Saint-Pery, by whom he later had a boy and a girl. He 
was twenty-four years old, powerfully built, a tall, square- 
faced young man with a crew haircut, drooping mustache, 
clean-shaven chin, and thick neck. Though he wore a low 
collar, and affected to dress like the late Baudelaire, he was 
proper, conservative, Catholic, and a little dull. If he pos- 
sessed the qualifications for royal rule, no one, not even his 
wife, yet suspected it. 

Between 1876 and 1880, Baron Harden-Hickey poured 
forth eleven full-length novels. All were written in French 
under the name Saint-Patrice. Recently when I visited the 
Bibliotheque Nationale I found all but three of Harden- 
Hickey's novels still on the shelves. His first, A Love in 
Society, moves its cosmopolitan characters from Paris to 
Interlaken to Lourdes to Moscow. In the climax of the book, 
the young Scottish-born, French-bred hero, Robert, pursues 
his Polish love, Sophie, who is being forced to marry rich 
old Barewski, to the wintry (twenty-two degrees below 
zero) steppes of Russia. Robert kidnaps Sophie and flees with 
her in a sleigh while hungry wolves and Barewski give chase. 
Robert fights them off with a hatchet. The wolves, discour- 
aged, give up and settle for Barewski. 

( 3' ) 

The Square Pegs 

Four years later, Harden-Hickey's eleventh and final 
novel, Fierpepin's Metamorphosis, written in Belgium during 
September 1880, appeared. Fierpepin is a bony, haughty 
nobleman, a dim carbon-copy of Don Quixote, whose an- 
cestors were all failures (one, notably, left his wife in a 
chastity belt, forgetting that her lover was a locksmith). 
Fierpepin determines to run for the Chamber of Deputies 
against a common Republican, Dr. Theodore Globule, the 
town doctor and mayor. As Dr. Globule hypnotizes the 
masses with magnificent oratory, Fierpepin knows he must 
muffle the man. Fierpepin employs an air pump to extract 
the bark from a large dog, and with this goes to call upon 
his opponent. When the doctor stands openmouthed at some 
audacious remark made by his visitor, Fierpepin promptly 
stuffs the dog's bark into his rival's mouth. After that, in- 
stead of speaking, Dr. Globule can only woof at political 
meetings. Fierpepin wins the election easily. 

While all of Harden-Hickey's novels contain a certain 
amount of muttering against democracy, his most socially 
significant effort, presented in the form of twelve satirical 
letters exchanged between an underpaid American corre- 
spondent in Europe, Jonathan Smith, and his editor on the 
Boston Daily News, Samuel Jones, was called Letters from 
a Yank. Editor Jones assigns his correspondent to seek out 
an amazing new French invention "a power capable of re- 
placing water, steam, horses, windmills, velocipedes and all 
known engines" a bottle of human perspiration, extracted 
from "the toil of others." In Paris, while hunting down the 
concoction, Reporter Smith is chased by the police, hides 
in a stuffed ostrich, is given away as first prize in the Na- 
tional Lottery, and is won by James Gordon Bennett of the 
New York Herald. 

Many who read these novels must have been confused by 
their unevenness. On the one hand, the plots were naive and 
the characters stereotyped, and the French was fluent but 
flat. On the other, there was an occasional flash of wit, and 


The King of Thirty -Sixth Street 

sometimes an idea or situation so extravagant as to take the 
breath away. To some readers, the novels must have ap- 
peared to have been written by a two-headed man: one 
head conventional, the other eccentric; one head mediocre, 
the other utterly mad. "You begin to wonder," a librarian at 
the Bibliotheque Nationale remarked recently, "what man- 
ner of a person did all this." 

Among the people who wondered about Harden-Hickey 
at the time was a small group of French Royalists. They 
were less interested in the literary style of Harden-Hickey's 
novels than in their political content. They delighted in his 
thrusts at the new Republic, as in A Love in Vendee, when 
he accused the "noble propagandists of Liberty, Equality, 
Fraternity" of having written "a blood-stained page in the 
annals of this country, so quiet and peaceful before." 

The Royalists, followers of Henri, Count de Chambord, 
grandson of Charles X of France, approached Harden-Hickey. 
The Third Republic was eight years old. Among other 
things, it had turned financial surpluses into deficits and con- 
scripted the educated classes, accomplishments which particu- 
larly offended the good taste of the Royalists. The Royalists 
wanted to place the fifty-eight-year-old Count de Chambord 
on the throne. The Count stood for parliamentary govern- 
ment and universal suffrage, though he had remarked: 
"Either I am King by Right Divine or a lame old man with 
no business in politics." Would Harden-Hickey lend his 
flair, his invective, to the Count's cause? The Royalists had 
in mind an illustrated weekly, with a scepter to grind, some- 
thing along the lines of Punch. The Count de Chambord 
would put up the money; a dozen Royalist writers would 
help contribute the copy. The project needed only an editor. 

Under Napoleon III there were nine hundred daily news- 
papers, weeklies, and monthly magazines in Paris alone. 
These were filled with the screened produce of journalists 
like Villemessant, who founded Figaro, Taine, and Edmond 
About, and with the cartoons of Nadar, Daumier, Cham, 

( 33 ) 

The Square Pegs 

and Andre Gill (whose name, punned, became the Mont- 
martre tavern, Lapin Agile). The opposition press, Republi- 
cans, was handcuffed by the severest censorship. 

By 1872, with the Emperor in his English exile at Chis- 
lehurst (where he joined Eugenie, who had earlier escaped 
France by yacht with the help of her American dentist, a 
millionaire Philadelphian in Paris named Thomas W. Evans), 
and with France for the third time undergoing the preliminary 
spasms that attend the birth of representative government, 
the press found itself liberated from censorship. Editors, de- 
termined to take full advantage of the new democracy, went 
berserk. u To write of ministers," complained one Minister, 
"editors comb the slang of convicts for their most shocking 
expressions." The scandalous gossip, the mounting insults and 
lies, forced the government to apply its libel laws vigorously. 
In a single year, writers and editors were sentenced to 2,319 
days' imprisonment for the offense of pornography alone. 

It was in this free but highly combative climate of the 
common man that Baron Harden-Hickey undertook to edit, 
on behalf of a pretender to an unpopular throne, a satirical 
weekly called Le Triboulet, named after the favorite jester 
of Louis XII. The first issue appeared on November 10, 
1878. The masthead promised an issue every Sunday at fifty 
centimes and listed Saint-Patrice as editor. The cartoon 
cover depicted Triboulet, club in hand, representing royalty, 
belaboring Marianne and other puppets, symbolizing the 
young republic. 

Harden-Hickey left the "Chronicles of High Life" to 
Gramadock, the "Fashions" to Stella, the "Chronicle of the 
Boulevards" to Trick, the "Sports" to Count de Mirabel, 
and himself concentrated on the invective. When he accused 
the Minister of the Interior of consorting with a syndicate 
of Spanish swindlers, the Minister's attorney railed at Har- 
den-Hickey and his staff: "You are working for money only. 
You are journalists deprived of ideas, talent, wit; living from 

( 34) 

The King of Thirty-Sixth Street 

scandal, and acting the same though in another direction 
as the pornographic papers, addressing yourselves to un- 
healthy and overexcited passions." 

Harden-Hickey's editorial policy was endorsed at the 
kiosks. Buying was brisk; circulation zoomed to 25,000. But, 
within twelve months, overenthusiasm landed the manager, 
M. Lampre, in Sainte-Pelagie Prison, and forced the periodical 
to attempt to fend off eleven lawsuits that cost the staff 
a total of six months' confinement and 3,000 francs in fines. 
Despite persistent legal ambushes, Le Triboulet continued to 
expand. By the end of its second year it had grown from a 
weekly to a daily publication. Harden-Hickey heralded the 
promise of more prose with a signed editorial: "Our readers 
must know today that Triboulet stands for courage, loyalty; 
they will therefore understand that our sole aim in starting 
this new paper is simply the desire to continue with more 
strength the campaign for royalty and religion. Instead of 
beating Marianne once a week, Triboulet's club will caress 
the back of the shrew every day." 

For the greater part of nine years, Harden-Hickey edited 
Le Triboulet from headquarters at 35 Boulevard Haussmann. 
His office was "painted azure-blue, strewn with gold fleurs- 
de-lys, each panel trimmed with the weapons of France." 
His exuberance over his task never diminished; he was king- 
struck. And those radicals who believed in such outrageous 
lunacy as plebiscites had nothing but his very vocal contempt. 
When Republican journalists and politicians protested against 
his insults, Harden-Hickey would usually offer his choice of 
weapons: "Would you prefer to meet me upon the editorial 
page or in the Bois de Boulogne?" At least twelve met him 
with swords in the Bois, among them H. Lavertujon, a 
member of the Chamber of Deputies, Aurelien Scholl, a 
celebrated wit, and M. De Cyon, a journalist. Others sought 
less physical means to repair their honor. Harden-Hickey was 
sued forty-two times, fined 300,000 francs, and once expelled 


The Square Pegs 

from France (for cruelly caricaturing the Presidents of the 
Republic, the Senate, and the Chamber dancing a jig while 
attired in bathing suits). 

In 1884 the sponsor of all the fuss and fury, the Count de 
Chambord, inconsiderately expired in Austria. Harden- 
Hickey remained at his desk and in the Bois three more 
years, valiantly trying to rally the Royalist movement, until, 
as he later informed the New York press, "he finally grew 
weary of the long fight against heavy odds and the inaction 
of the Royalists, and he withdrew from his connection with 
the paper in 1887." Within a year, Le Triboulet had ceased 
pummeling Marianne. In London, Harden-Hickey announced 
that the paper had been suppressed by the government and 
he himself exiled. More likely, with Count de Chambord's 
death, Saint-Patrice had lost his angel. 

At the age of thirty-four, Baron Harden-Hickey had di- 
vorced himself from the French Royalists and from his 
French wife. Now he proceeded to divorce himself from the 
Catholic Church, though he could not resist retaining the 
title of nobility that the church had conferred upon him. 
It is not clear if Harden-Hickey became an undiluted Bud- 
dhist, or a Theosophist, or precisely in what manner and on 
what date this conversion occurred. But occur it most cer- 
tainly did. 

At the time, Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, the Russian- 
born spiritualist, founder of a new mystic faith called The- 
osophy, was the lioness of London. In 1873 Madame 
Blavatsky had made her way from Cairo to New York, 
where she swiftly graduated from producing artificial flowers 
in a sweatshop to reigning as High Priestess over an apart- 
ment-salon at 302 West Forth-seventh Street (called by the 
press, somewhat irreverently, The Lamasery). During this 
period she acquired a sponsor in Colonel Henry Olcott, a 
Manhattan lawyer who composed occasional feature stories 
on spiritualism and farming for the New York Tribune. The 
Colonel left his wife and three sons to follow the Madame 

( 30 

The King of Thirty -Sixth Street 

on a holy pilgrimage to India. After becoming a Buddhist 
in Ceylon, she founded the Theosophical Society, which 
borrowed heavily from Hinduism and Buddhism and advo- 
cated the doctrine of reincarnation. 

When Harden-Hickey arrived in London, Madame Blavat- 
sky, a great pudding of a woman who cursed like a trooper 
and rolled her own, was installed at 18 Lansdowne Road, 
Notting Hill, W. "Peers and belted earls and their ladies, 
scientists, savants, and explorers thronged her drawing room," 
reported Gertrude Marvin Williams in Priestess of the Oc- 
cult. "Even the Church of England, thundering against her 
on Sunday, peeked at her on Monday. Leaning back against 
the cushions at one of her soirees, Madame watched the 
wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury sitting primly on a 
front row chair. . . ." Alfred Russel Wallace became a 
member of the Madame's Theosophical Society, Gladstone 
penned an essay about her, and Lord Tennyson perused her 
poetry. In America, Colonel Abner Doubleday, sometimes 
said to have invented baseball, and Thomas A. Edison, in- 
ventor of almost everything else, led the list of her followers. 

Baron Harden-Hickey seems to have been equally enam- 
ored. After meeting her, he threw off Catholicism, and after 
traveling halfway around the earth to visit the land of her 
Masters ("During a fairly long stay I made in India, I have 
been able to personally ascertain the occult power of the 
Tibetan adepts"), he returned to France to put his new 
ideas on religion to paper. In 1890 L. Sauvaitre of Paris 
published Theosophy, by Saint-Patrice. Harden-Hickey's 
soul-searching foreword, addressed to his French Catholic 
public, advises readers to emulate him in forsaking the Church 
of Rome. "You were born in France, from an aristocratic 
or bourgeois family, and you were most certainly Catholic. 
The influences that presided over your education have no 
doubt been created by this double origin. So far, you have 
perhaps been right in following your faith. But now it is 
your duty to educate yourself and submit to a cold-blooded 

( 37) 

The Square Pegs 

analysis, free of foregone conclusions, of the creed which 
composes your intellectual baggage. I believe, to start with, 
that the highest aim in life should not be possession of faith, 
but comprehension of truth." 

In the first six chapters of Theosophy, Harden-Hickey 
lashes Christianity with the new Darwinism. "The consider- 
able amount of good achieved in the Occident by Christian- 
ity has been offset by its evil and by the infamous doctrine 
that claims that honest disbelief in dogmas is a moral offense, 
a deadly sin." From this, Harden-Hickey goes into his last 
six chapters, explaining Buddhism and Theosophy and ex- 
amining them also in the light of Evolution. He concludes 
by quoting heavily from a house organ called The Theoso- 
phisty and enthusiastically praising Madame Blavatsky and the 
Theosophical Society. 

Less than one year later, a volume called Bible Plagiarisms, 
by Saint-Patrice, appeared in the Paris book-stalls. In its pages 
Harden-Hickey argues: "As to being a historical work, the 
Bible is inferior to Perrault's fairy tales; as a literary work, 
it is inferior to Ohnet; as to obscenity, it is worse than the 
Marquis de Sade." He adds that Genesis is a plagiarism of 
the Indian Vedas, the Old Testament a steal from Brahmanisrn, 
and Christianity a weak copy of Buddhism. 

This conversion, however, was not the main product of 
Harden-Hickey 's twenty-four-month journey around the 
world. Early during this trip occurred the accident that was 
to provide him with his raison d'etre. Before departing he 
arranged that his young son and daughter, both of whom 
he controlled under the antiquated French divorce laws, be 
placed under the guardianship of his closest Parisian friend, 
Count de la Boissiere, who had supported himself as a clerk 
in the Colonial Office, as a curbstone broker, and as a wine 
merchant, and who had in common with him a love for 
affaires d'honneur and the Bourbon way of life. 

Harden-Hickey sailed on a British merchant ship, the 
Astoria, commanded by a Captain Jackson, which was 


The King of Thirty-Sixth Street 

bound west for Cape Horn en route to India. About seven 
hundred miles off Brazil a storm drove the Astoria into refuge 
behind a small mountainous island called Trinidad. This was 
not the larger British West Indian island of Trinidad, six 
miles off Venezuela, populated by a half -million, and re- 
nowned for its asphalt lake. What Harden-Hickey saw from 
his rolling merchantman was a coral-ridged, barren, unin- 
habited thumb of land isolated from and almost forgotten by 
the rest of the world. "One of the most uncanny and dis- 
piriting spots on earth," E. F. Knight of the London Times 
had remarked in 1881, after observing the heavy vapors and 
mists that hung shroudlike over Trinidad's ravines, cliffs, and 
lava deposits. 

Harden-Hickey requested permission of Captain Jackson 
to go ashore. From the Captain and crew he had heard the 
standard romantic stories of burried treasure on the island. 
In 1821, when General San Martin was liberating Peru, the 
wealthy Spanish families of Lima had fled to sea with their 
gold and jewels, estimated to be worth several millions. Some 
of the Spanish vessels were intercepted by Benito de Soto, 
a merciless pirate leader, and his crew of ex-slavers. The 
Spanish were deprived of their lives and their wealth. It is 
thought that de Soto, hard pressed, secreted his loot on bleak 
Trinidad before his final capture and execution in Gibraltar. 
His colleagues in crime were also brought to justice and the 
rO pe that is, all except one. The lone fugitive escaped to 
serve on a British merchantman. When he died in Bombay, 
his trunk disclosed his former occupation as well as a canvas 
map of Trinidad. The merchantman Captain did not take 
the map seriously until years later when, in retirement at 
Newcastle, he realized that it might hold the secret to Lima's 
missing treasure. The map indicated that de Soto had hidden 
his gold and jewels in a cave near the top of a ravine on 
Trinidad. In 1880 the Captain's son visited the island, located 
the treasure site, but found that landslides had covered the 
cave under tons of earth. Lacking equipment, the heir could 

( 39) 

The Square Pegs 

do little. He retired from the hunt. But the fascinating map 
survived to inspire four more treasure expeditions to Trin- 
idad before Baron James Harden-Hickey himself waded ashore. 

In his lonely hike across the island, Harden-Hickey found 
no signs of human life except for some stone huts left by the 
Brazilian Portuguese who had discovered Trinidad around 
1700, and debris of earlier treasure-hunting expeditions. 
Though the island was desolate and wind-swept, and though 
there was no evidence of the treasure site, Harden- 
Hickey was, nevertheless, strangely stimulated. "I explored 
the island thoroughly," he told a New York reporter five 
years later, when the passage of time had cast a romantic 
aura over the visit. "It is about twenty-three miles long and 
two or three miles wide. It is on a rock foundation, but has 
a plateau on which there is abundant vegetation. A river 
of pure, fresh water runs through it. It has all the essential 
qualifications for supporting several hundred people. Great 
quantities of wild fowl make it their breeding place, and it is 
visited periodically by thousands of turtles, which deposit 
their eggs there." 

Before the storm abated and the Astoria was able to con- 
tinue on its way, Harden-Hickey apparently revisited the 
island, solemnly claimed it in his own name, and "planted a 
flag of his own design." As he did nothing more about the 
island at once, this seemed to be merely a momentary ro- 
mantic gesture. He spent the entire following year in India, 
listening to holy men and learning Sanskrit, after which he 
went for brief visits to China and Japan. At last, in 1890, he 
returned to Republican France, where his earlier offenses 
seem to have been forgotten. 

In Paris, which was just then becoming a shopping center 
for American heiresses who did their sight-seeing from tiie 
Almanach de Gotha instead of Baedeker, Baron Harden- 
Hickey met Anna H. Flagler, daughter of John Haldane 
Flagler, a man whom newspapers referred to as "the Standard 
Oil magnate," but who had actually made his fortune in the 


The King of Thirty-Sixth Street 

manufacture of iron (some of which was used to construct 
the $275,000 ironclad Monitor in 1861). In 1891, at the 
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York City, Harden- 
Hickey and Miss Flagler were married by the Reverend 
John Hall. 

During the next, few years, while residing in the Flagler 
home in New York, Harden-Hickey unnerved his family by 
devoting his energies to several highly original projects, 
among them translating a book on Buddhism, completing his 
volume Bible Plagiarisms, perfecting a plan for missionary 
work to convert Americans to Buddha, and developing means 
of extracting money from his disapproving father-in-law. 

Flagler had powerfully opposed the marriage. He regarded 
Harden-Hickey as a foreign fortune-seeker. In a temper, 
Harden-Hickey married Anna Flagler "without settlements" 
and supported her out of his own dwindling savings. When 
his money was gone, Harden-Hickey tried to obtain his wife's 
money, left her by her mother, with her father as executor. 
Flagler, not unexpectedly, refused to turn over the money. 
He said he had it soundly invested, whereas Harden-Hickey 
might do something foolish with it. Harden-Hickey was soon 
reduced to seeking funds from Flagler, whom he hated with 
mounting intensity, through his friend, Count de la Boissiere, 
who, as a former stockbroker, got on well with Flagler, and 
who himself was now an American citizen after having mar- 
ried a Virginia heiress. 

With this painfully acquired cash, Harden-Hickey not only 
supported his wife, but also purchased, ranches and mines in 
Texas, California, and Mexico. This involvement in com- 
mercialism seemed to have a discouraging effect on the 
Baron. He was a nonentity without a future, and his mind 
was filled with the delights of self-extinction. "While he was 
in New York, I was a reporter on the Evening Sun," wrote 
Richard Harding Davis in 1912, "but I cannot recall ever 
having read his name in the newspapers of that day, and I 
heard of him only twice; once as giving an exhibition of 

(41 ) 

The Square Pegs 

his water-colors at the American Art Galleries, and again 
as the author of a book I found in a store in Twenty-second 
Street, just east of Broadway, then the home of the Truth 
Seeker Publishing Company." 

This slender, i6y-page volume, entitled Euthanasia; the 
Aesthetics of Suicide, by Baron Harden-Hickey, published 
by the Truth Seeker Company in 1894, is perhaps one of 
the most depressing documents in the history of literary 
eccentricity. Copies have become extremely rare. I was able 
to find one in the New York Public Library and one in 
the Library of Congress. Recently I visited the Truth Seeker 
bookstore, at 38 Park Row, New York, on the chance that 
they might still stock one of their old authors. The store was 
on the tenth floor of an office building, and the glazed-glass 
entrance bore the names of three organizations: "Truth 
Seeker Company . . . National Liberal League . . . Amer- 
ican Association For The Advancement of Atheism, Inc." 
The Truth Seeker people were somewhat suspicious of my 
request for a volume on self-destruction by an American 
Buddhist. Their latest catalogue, while listing such titles as 
What Would Christ Do About Syphilis? and Bible Myths and 
recent volumes on free thought, made no mention of Eu- 
thanasia; the Aesthetics of Suicide. One of the clerks in the 
office telephoned his father, Dr. Charles F. Potter, who had 
been the first president of the Euthanasia Society. I repeated 
the title and the name of the author to Dr. Potter, and he 
thought he remembered it. "If I remember correctly/' he 
said, "there was a brief flurry of sales, and then the author- 
ities suppressed it. They never seem to like books condoning 

In this book, the only one he wrote wholly in English, 
Harden-Hickey discusses suicide and justifies it with four 
hundred quotations ranging from the Bible to Shakespeare. 
While he claims to have written only the preface, it seems 
certain that many of the quotations "by the greatest thinkers 
the world has ever produced" are of doubtful parentage. 

U* ) 

The King of Thirty-Sixth Street 

Harden-Hickey does not credit the sources of his quotations, 
and many may have had thek origin in the study of the 
Flagler residence. 

At any rate, the preface is the author's own handiwork. 
On page 4, after a wordy attack on "avaricious and knavish 
priests . . . vain philosophers . . . cranky scientists" who 
would obscure the Truth, Harden-Hickey finally gets to the 

"Suicide has become such a common occurrence in our 
time the average being one every three minutes that it 
merits to attract more attention than the morbid curiosity 
of the readers of daily papers. To the Christian, suicide ap- 
pears as a heinous crime; the followers of Christ seem to 
have forgotten that if the legend on which their religion 
was founded were true, Christ would occupy a very prom- 
inent place in the annals of suicide plenty of men have cut 
the thread of their own life, but we have no authentic record 
of any God having done so; it may also be added that we 
have no authentic record of a God performing any act 

But Harden-Hickey is just warming to his subject. On 
pages 6 and 7 -he continues with more vigor: "One can 
readily understand that priests who live off men should object 
to their dying without paying toll, under the form of sacra- 
ments and indulgencies, for crossing over the fatal bridge; 
but in the name of Reason why should free-thinkers indulge 
in snickering and bickering at the man independent and brave 
enough to throw off the burden of life when it has become 
cumbersome. In so doing they place themselves on the same 
level as the most blatant churchman. 

"To return to suicide, it has been universally approved of 
by all philosophical religions, and has been practiced by some 
of the most noted men of antiquity. 

"In the following pages will be found the pith of what 
has been written on the subject by the greatest thinkers the 
world has ever produced: Zeno, Epictetus, Diogenes, Seneca, 

(43 ) 

The Square Pegs 

Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Montaigne, Rousseau, Donne, Hume, 
Gibbon, Montesquieu, etc. 

"May this little work contribute to the overthrow of the 
reign of fear! May it nerve the faltering arm of the poor 
wretch to whom life is loathsome, but death full of terrors; 
let him say with the noble Cato: 

'Thus I am doubly armed; my death and life, 
My bane and antidote, are both be-fore me: 
This in a moment brings me to an end; 
But this informs me I shall never die. 
The soul, secured in her existence, smiles 
At the drawn dagger, and defies its point' 

And let him calmly, without anger or joy, but with the 
utmost indifference, cast off the burden of existence." 

The text and illustrations that follow are for adults only 
those with the thickest of skins and the strongest of stomachs. 
In collaboration with the "greatest thinkers," Harden-Hickey 
suggests the best means of self-annihilation, mentioning fifty- 
one instruments (among them scissors) and eighty-eight 
poisons. The content of the book is further enlivened by a 
half dozen black-and-white drawings of men and women 
in various postures of suicide. Few, however, appear to be 
proper examples of Harden-Hickey's theory that suicide is 
a privilege. Most seem distressed or downright miserable. 
The first picture exhibits a man in full attire seated on his 
bed with a revolver against his right temple. Another picture 
displays a woman slumped before a coal stove, expiring from 
the fumes. A third shows a fop writhing on the floor, his 
glass of poison overturned nearby. 

The quotations, whatever their sources, are more convinc- 
ing and cheerful. On page 43 the intelligent are advised; 
"The wise man lives as long as he ought, not as long as he 
can." On page 128 the hedonists are courted: "We must 
shake off this fond desire of life and learn that it is of little 


The King of Thirty-Sixth Street 

consequence when we suffer; that it is of greater moment 
to live well than to live long, and that oftentimes it is living 
well not to live long." 

The very year this book appeared, Baron Harden-Hickey 
seemed suddenly to have found a reason for not committing 
suicide. Hemmed in, as he was, by Flagler's New York 
Wall Street, J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr., Procter and Gamble's 
first $40,000 advertising campaign, the Plaza, the horseless 
carriage Harden-Hickey began to retreat more and more 
into the world of Napoleon III. Retreating, he remembered 
Trinidad. Or perhaps he had never forgotten it. At once the 
raucous new civilization of the stock exchange and the sky- 
scraper seemed less real than the barren isle off Brazil. 
Harden-Hickey decided to claim the isle off Brazil for his 
very own. 

By the time the New York Tribune reporter came calling, 
in November 1893, Harden-Hickey had managed to endow 
his fantasy with a certain amount of legality. "I propose to 
take possession of the Island of Trinidad under a maxim of 
international law which declares that anybody may seize and 
hold waste land that is not claimed by anybody else," he ex- 
plained. "The island is uninhabited and has been so for more 
than a hundred years. Two or three centuries ago the Por- 
tuguese attempted to colonize it, probably by a penal colony. 
They soon gave up the attempt, however. The English also 
once made a feeble effort to plant a colony upon it, but the 
project was abandoned after a short settlement. The remains 
of these early settlements may still be seen upon the island." 

The Tribune representative, still skeptical, then inquired: 
"How will other nations regard the fact of your possession? 
Does Portugal or England or any other nation lay claim on 
the island?" 

"No nation lays any claim on it," Harden-Hickey insisted. 
"It has been abandoned for over a century. I do not expect 
any difficulty. I have already informed several governments 
of my purpose, and have received favorable replies from 

(45 ) 

The Square Pegs 

some of them. I am assured that at least one nation will for- 
mally recognize my government as soon as I get it estab- 

In succeeding months, after crowning himself King James I 
of Trinidad, and appointing Count de la Boissiere his For- 
eign Minister, Harden-Hickey opened his chancellery at 217 
West Thirty-six Street, New York City, to treat with poten- 
tial subjects as well as with other powers. "Trinidad's Chan- 
cellery is not a palace," reported The New York Times. 
"It is in one of the rooms of a dwelling house built on the 
block system." A Tribune man, going to visit de la Boissiere, 
found it "a surprisingly humble place for so high a dignitary." 
Richard Harding Davis, calling for an interview, reported: 
"The chancellery was not exactly in its proper setting. On 
its doorstep children of the tenements were playing dolls 
with clothes-pins; in the street a huckster in raucous tones 
was offering wilted cabbages to women in wrappers leaning 
from the fire-escapes; the smells and the heat of New York 
in midsummer rose from the asphalt. It was a far cry to the 
wave-swept island off the coast of Brazil." 

Almost two decades later, Richard Harding Davis returned 
to Thirty-sixth Street, and then recorded: "Three weeks ago 
I revisited it and found it unchanged." The neighborhood 
was the same except that the York Hotel had replaced the 

Four decades after Davis's last visit, I went to 217 West 
Thirty-sixth Street. The chancellery had undergone one more 
metamorphosis. It was now a narrow barbershop, with a 
watch-repair concession in the front of the shop near the 
window. This was located in what was called the Garment 
Center Building, and it looked out upon a street thick with 
trucks, vans, and taxis, and upon a sidewalk filled with work- 
men who were pushing racks of dresses. I did not go inside. 

In 1 894 the interior of the chancellery, while it gave more 
promise of adventure than a barbershop, also invariably dis- 
appointed those who had been educated to expect a certain 

The King of Thirty-Sixth Street 

lushness in connection with the purple. On the door to the 
chancellery was pasted a strip of paper which, in the hand- 
writing of de la Boissiere, announced: Chancellerie de la 
Principaute de Trinidad. The austerity of the interior made 
a Trappist monastery, by comparison, seem positively frivo- 
lous. "There is an oilcloth covering on the floor of the room," 
reported the Tribune, "and the furniture of the room con- 
sists of a small wooden table, much the worse for wear and 
having a covering of wrapping paper; three chairs, which 
bear the marks of age; a bookcase such as might be bought 
in a second-hand store for one dollar, and some shelves with 
pigeonholes. Some rubberstamps on the table take the place 
of State seals." Richard Harding Davis recalled that on the 
chancellery table were also copies of a recent royal proc- 
lamation, newly printed Trinidad postage stamps, and several 
pasteboard boxes filled with gold-and-red enameled crosses of 
the Order of Trinidad. On the wall hung a large announce- 
ment: Sailings To Trinidad March i and October i. 

When the press asked the sorely tried John H. Flagler if 
he recognized King James I, he, busy as he was with his 
National Tube Company and his banking, insurance, and min- 
ing investments, replied seriously: "My son-in-law is a very 
determined man. He will carry out any scheme in which he 
is interested. Had he consulted me about this, I would have 
been glad to have aided him with money or advice. My son- 
in-law is an extremely well-read, refined, well-bred man. He 
does not court publicity. While he was staying in my house, 
he spent nearly all the time in the library translating an Indian 
book on Buddhism. My daughter has no ambition to be a 
queen or anything else than what she is an American girl. 
But my son-in-law means to carry on this Trinidad scheme 
and he will." 

To carry out this scheme, Harden-Hickey produced a four- 
page prospectus of his kingdom, written in French. He began 
by stating that, having married the only daughter of an 
American millionaire, he had become a person of unlimited 

(47 ) 

The Square Pegs 

means this to prove his seriousness and solvency. He had 
stumbled upon and taken possession of Trinidad, he went on 
to explain, and on it he had decided to establish a new state. 
The government would be a military dictatorship. The offi- 
cers would all sport mustaches "a U Louis Napoleon}' The 
first white colonists who settled on Trinidad would form the 
aristocracy. To become eligible as colonists, they must give 
evidence that their social standing in the United States was 
high, and that they could afford to buy twenty i,ooo-franc 
government bonds. This investment assured each colonist of 
free passage from San Francisco to Trinidad on Harden- 
Hickey's newly acquired schooner, and free passage back to 
the States after one year, if desired. 

Harden-Hickey carefully described the wonders of his 
empire in the prospectus. "In spite of its rugged and unin- 
viting appearance, the inland plateaus are rich with luxuriant 
vegetation. Prominent among these is a peculiar species of 
bean, which is not only edible, but extremely palatable. The 
surrounding sea swarms with fish, which as yet are wholly 
unsuspicious of the hook. Dolphins, rock-cod, pigfish, and 
blackfish may be caught as quickly as they can be hauled out. 

"I look to the sea birds and the turtles to afford our prin- 
cipal source of revenue. Trinidad is the breeding place of 
almost the entire feathery population of the South Atlantic 
Ocean. The exportation of guano alone should make my 
little country prosperous. Turtles visit the island to deposit 
eggs and at certain seasons the beach is literally alive with 
them. The only drawback to my projected kingdom is the 
fact that it has no good harbor and can be approached only 
when the sea is calm." 

Harden-Hickey went on to explain that, while the state 
would retain a monopoly on guano and turtle, the buried 
pirate treasure would be divided between those who dis- 
covered it and the government. All other delights were free 
the "vegetation luxuriante de -fougeres, ff acacias et de hari- 
cots sauvageSy propres a la nourriture de Vhowme" and the 




about 1860 

The King of Thirty-Sixth Street 

"vie (Pun genre tout nouveau, et la recherche de sensations 

Harden-Hickey elaborated on certain points in his pros- 
pectus with a series of official royal proclamations. One of 
the earliest read: 

We, Jcnnes, Prince of Trinidad, have resolved to commem- 
orate our accession to the throne of Trinidad by the institu- 
tion of an Order of Chivalry, destined to reward literature, 
industry, science, and the human virtues, and by these pres- 
ents have established and do institute, 'with cross and crown, 
the Order of the Insignia of the Cross of Trinidad, of which 
ive and our heirs and successors shall be the sovereigns. 

Given in our Chancellery the 8th of the month of De- 
cember, 1893, and of our reign, the First Year. 


All through 1894 the chancellery on Thirty-sixth Street 
hummed with activity. Sometimes King James I himself was 
there to greet the press or the curious. The Saturday Review 
found him "a big, handsome, overdressed fellow, apparently 
an Irishman by birth." The Tribune described him as "a tall 
man, with a decided French manner. He wears a moustache 
and imperial, and has light brown hair. He speaks excellent 
English, emphasizing his remarks frequently with French ges- 
tures." Often Harden-Hickey was out of town, and then the 
jovial Count de la Boissiere, working for a salary, fenced 
with the press. The Tribune in an unkindly mood reported 
him as "a stout Frenchman of thirty in a loosely fitting sum- 
mer suit of light straw color, flannel shirt and tan shoes 
... so much like an ordinary man that he could go any- 
where without attracting suspicion." The New York Times, 
on the other hand, was charmed by "his incandescent eyes 
under glasses, his hair, which is cut in the French military 
fashion, short and pointed at the forehead, his ample gestures 
and the optimisms evident in the enthusiastic, loving colors of 
his dress engrave." 


The Square Pegs 

By 1895 It appeared that King James's Trinidad was here 
to stay. Harden-Hickey spoke of sending the first shipload 
of colonists to the island in the spring or early summer. 
There was every reason for optimism. The great powers 
were aware of his existence. "Several Central American Re- 
publics, for reasons known only to themselves, did recognize 
him," admitted The Saturday Review, "and allowed their 
representatives in Europe, notably in Austria and at the Vati- 
can, to inscribe Trinidad on their official cards." As to colo- 
nists, it was never officially known how many agreed to 
settle on Trinidad. Harden-Hickey once remarked that he had 
a colony of 50 whites, and 300 of his 500 Chinese coolies, 
ready to leave in May 1895, though when that date came 
there was no such departure. De la Boissiere intimated there 
were forty persons working for Harden-Hickey on Trinidad, 
presumably doing preliminary labor in laying out the light- 
house, wharves, and coaling station (for ships headed toward 
Cape Horn). 

Though Harden-Hickey left no accounting of sales of his 
i,ooo-franc bonds, he did indicate that he was obtaining a 
small amount of revenue from sales of postage stamps to 
philatelists throughout the world. In November 1 894 he of- 
fered the public seven varieties of postage stamps ranging in 
price from five centimes to five francs each. All of these 
stamps, in imitation of a North Borneo stamp issued the same 
year, showed a view of Trinidad from the south, with a 
sailing vessel in the foreground, and the inscription: "Prin- 
cipaute de Trinidad Timbre Poste et Fiscal" These stamps, 
explained de la Boissiere, "have not been introduced to satisfy 
the curiosity of collectors, but for use. . . ." Few of these 
survived Harden-Hickey's time. Recently H. E. Harris and 
Company of Boston, one of the world's largest stamp firms, 
informed me that they did not "have any of the stamps 
available or know where they could be obtained." These 
stamps were not Harden-Hickey's only means of income. 


The King of Thirty-Sixth Street 

Several Crosses of Trinidad, the medal for chivalry and ar- 
tistic accomplishment, were also sold. This was the high- 
water mark in the reign of King James I. He was everywhere, 
traveling constantly, too busy to see his wife, too busy to 
argue with his father-in-law. The homemade crown sat 
firmly on his head. He was a happy man. 

On January 3, 1895, a British warship, Earracouta, cast 
anchor off Trinidad, and proceeded to disembark troops and 
engineers. The British quietly garrisoned the island and began 
construction of a cable station for a new line stretching from 
Great Britain to Brazil. When word of this seizure reached 
South America there was "excitement" in Rio de Janeiro and 
angry crowds stoned the British Consulate in Baia. Brazil 
formally demanded that Britain withdraw its troops from 
Trinidad. Britain refused. The Latin press muttered about 
security and provocation. The British Foreign Office coolly 
suggested arbitration; the Brazilian Foreign Office heatedly 
refused. No one consulted James I. It was not until July that 
Harden-Hickey learned that he was a king without a country. 

There is no record of the thoughts that passed through 
his mind in those first moments of crisis. We know only that 
he dictated, and Count de la Boissiere transcribed and signed, 
a stern and detailed protest to the United States Department 
of State: 

New York, July 30, 1895 

I have the honor to recall to your memory: 

First, That in the course of the month of September, 1893, 
Baron Harden-Hickey has officially notified all the powers 
of his taking of possession of the uninhabited island of Trini- 
dad; and, 

Second, That in the course of January, 1894, he has re- 
newed to all these powers the official notification of the said 
taking of possession, and has informed them at the same time 
pom that date the land would be known as Principality of 

(51 ) 

The Square Pegs 

Trinidad; that he took the title of Prince of Trinidad, and 
would reign under the name of James L 

In consequence of these official notifications, several pow- 
ers have recognized the new Principality and its Prince, and 
at all events none has thought it necessary at that epoch to 
raise objections or formulate opposition. 

The press of the entire 'world has, on the other hand, often 
acquainted readers with these facts, thus giving to them all 
possible publicity. In comequence of the accomplishment of 
these formalities, and as the law of nations prescribes that 
"derelict" territories belong to whoever will take possession 
of them, and as the Island of Trinidad, which has been aban- 
doned for years, certainly belongs to the aforesaid category, 
his Serene Highness Prince James I was authorized to regard 
his rights on the said island as perfectly valid and indisputable. 

Nevertheless, your Excellency knows that recently, in spite 
of all the legitimate rights of my august sovereign,, an Eng- 
lish warship has disembarked at Trinidad a detachment of 
armed troops and taken possession of the island in the name 
of England. 

Following this assumption of territory, the Brazilian Gov- 
ernment, invoking a right of ancient Portuguese occupation, 
(long ago outlawed), has notified the English Government 
to surrender the island to Brazil. 

I beg of your Excellency to ask of the Government of the 
United States of North America to recognize the Principality 
of Trinidad as an independent State, and to come to an 
understanding with the other American powers in order to 
guarantee its neutrality. 

Thus, the Government of the United States of North 
America will once more accord its powerful assistavice to the 
cause of right and of justice, misunderstood by England and 
Brazil, put an end to a situation which threatens to disturb 
the peace, reestablish concord between two great States ready 
to appeal to arms, and affirm itself, moreover, as the faithful 
interpreter of the Monroe Doctrine. 


The King of T bitty -Sixth Street 

In the expectation of your reply, please accept, Excellency, 
the expression of my elevated consideration. 
The Grand Chancellor, 
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 


When Secretary of State Richard Olney received the docu- 
ment, he complained to the Washington correspondents that 
he could not read the handwriting. He was able to make 
out, he said, only that it was a formal protest, "signed by 
somebody, whose name could not be deciphered, as Chan- 
cellor," on behalf of somebody else called "James I." Since he 
could not read it, the Secretary of State could not act upon 
it. Cruelly, either he or his Second Assistant gave the docu- 
ment to the press. 

The chancellery was never more crowded than the next 
morning. Baron Harden-Hickey, stunned by the annexation, 
had already left for California, but Count de la Boissiere was 
cheerfully on hand to meet the reporters. Most teased him 
unmercifully. The Tribune, which gave the story a full col- 
umn, including cuts of both Harden-Hickey and de la Bois- 
siere, set the tone: 

"The Grand Chancellor said yesterday that he intended 
to go to Washington today and make an official call upon 
the Secretary of State. It was understood that the English 
wanted the island as a coaling station and as a place for land- 
ing a cable, he said, and there would be no objections to the 
cable and shipping wharves if only the rights of the princi- 
pality were recognized. 

" In fact, 5 said the Grand Chancellor, in broken English, 
c we would be glad to have them lay a cable to the island, 
because just now the island is not a good place in which to 
hear the news of the world.' " 

The Tribune concluded on a note that would have pro- 
voked de la Boissiere, or his sovereign, in more fiery days, 
to suggest a rendezvous in the Bois. Said the Tribune: 

(53 ) 

The Square Pegs 

"The Grand Chancellor seemed to be disinclined to talk 
about himself. He was a wine agent some time ago, but his 
only job at present is that of Grand Chancellor. . . . The 
expenses of the Grand Chancellery have to be kept down to 
the lowest possible notch, while the Powers are considering 
whether they will recognize James I as an independent sov- 
ereign. If their decision should be adverse to the principality, 
it is harrowing to think what might happen to the Grand 
Chancellor. He might have to go back to the wine business." 

Only two newspapermen in New York were sympathetic. 
The managing editor of The Ne<w York Times sent a re- 
porter, who later became a prominent art and music critic, 
Henri Pene du Bois, to the chancellery. When du Bois re- 
turned to his office the editor asked him what he found. 
Du Bois shook his head. "There is nothing funny in that 
story," he said. "It's pathetic. Both those men are earnest. 
They are convinced they are being robbed of their rights. 
Their only fault is that they have imagination, and that the 
rest of us lack it. That's the way it struck me, and that's the 
way the story should be written." The editor nodded. "Write 
it that way." 

The New York Times published the story on page one, 
column one, of its August i edition. The top headline read: 
"Trinidad's Prince Awake." The second head read: "An Ap- 
peal To Washington Against Brazil And Great Britain." The 
Times played it straight. It reprinted de la Boissiere's entire 
protest to the Secretary of State. It quoted de la Boissiere 
gently and at length: 

"M. le Comte de la Boissiere is luxuriously dressed. In 
white wool, and in white silk striped with pale blue, he bowed 
affably to the reporter for The New- York Times. 

"'Do you like my appeal to Washington?' he asked. C I 
have sent it to all the Ministers Plenipotentiary, Ambassa- 
dors, Envoys, and diplomatic agents. Oh, everybody knows 
about the Principality now. Everybody knew before, for all 


The King of Thirty -Sixth Street 

the newspapers had made its fame resound. They were not 
all friendly newspapers; some of them treated us in deplor- 
ably frivolous manner, but all served to make ignorance of 
our claim inexcusable. It would be childish for Brazil or for 
England to plead ignorance of our authority now. Our claim 
has been admitted by some powers, since they have sent an- 
swers to our notifications.' 

" 'Of course,' said the reporter. 'Then there are your sub- 
jects to be considered. Nobody believes that they will in- 
differently let themselves become Britons or Brazilians.' 

" 'Our subjects!' exclaimed M. de la Boissiere. 'Well, we 
need not talk about them. The question of population has 
no bearing in such affairs. There would have been a stock 
of subjects at Trinidad now, if the English had not seized 
the land.' " 

The very next day The New York Times ran a half- 
column follow-up interview with de la Boissiere. The story 
led off with: "In the State Department at Washington the 
clerks could not read the signature of Trinidad's Grand 
Chancellor. One wonders if they could have read that of 
Talleyrand. He signed *Ch. Mau. Tal.' with a flourish of 
flies' legs on a window pane. He used no capital letters. Those 
of M. le Comte de la Boissiere are fantastic and delicate." 

When at the end of the second interview the Times man 
asked de la Boissiere if he'd ever visited Trinidad, he re- 
plied: "No, thank you. I have other tigers to comb. We may 
take an indemnity from Great Britain, you know. It will 
be millions. You shall have a commission on the amount." 

When these stories reached Harden-Hickey, he proclaimed 
that The New York Times would thereafter be his official 
news-organ. He awarded Managing Editor Henry Gary and 
Reporter Henri Pene du Bois each the Cross of Trinidad 
("destined to reward literature . . . and the human vir- 
tues"), and appointed each a Chevalier of the Court of Trini- 
dad, which entitled them to wear uniforms identical with 

(55 ) 

The Square Pegs 

those of the chamberlains of the court and to receive pen- 
sions of 1,000 francs a year once the kingdom again became 
a going concern. 

Richard Harding Davis was the other newspaperman to 
handle the tottering principality with sympathy. Davis, who 
had been the model for Charles Dana Gibson's handsome 
males, earned $100,000 a year writing first-person foreign 
news stories, plays, and novels. Many considered him a con- 
ceited, prudish clotheshorse. They may have been right. But 
beneath the chill exterior beat the warm heart of a romantic. 
To play king when there were no more kingdoms? To have 
one's own toy island? Why not? Richard Harding Davis was 
an admiring vassal long before he reached the brownstone 
building on Thirty-sixth Street. 

"De la Boissiere talked to me frankly and fondly of Prince 
James," Davis wrote shortly afterwards. "Indeed, I never met 
any man who knew Harden-Hickey well, who did not speak 
of him with aggressive loyalty. If at his eccentricities they 
smiled, it was with the smile of affection. It was easy to see 
De la Boissiere regarded him not only with the affection of a 
friend, but with the devotion of a true subject. In his man- 
ner he himself was courteous, gentle, and so distinguished that 
I felt as though I were enjoying, on intimate terms, an au- 
dience with one of the prime-ministers of Europe. And he, 
on his part, after the ridicule of the morning papers, to have 
anyone with outward seriousness accept his high office and 
his king, was, I believe, not ungrateful." 

In San Francisco, Baron Harden-Hickey began to show 
signs of discouragement. His Foreign Minister's formal pro- 
tests and the tremendous publicity given these protests 
brought no response. Great Britain and Brazil continued 
their diplomatic dispute over Trinidad, and ignored King 
James I completely. If he read The Saturday Review for 
August 3, as most likely he did, he probably detected there 
the obituary of his reign. "The guano, the buried treasure, 
the innocent turtles basking on the sands under the watchful 

( 56 ) 

The King of Thirty-Sixth Street 

eye of the Zouave with the moustache and imperial, all have 
been swept abruptly into the rapacious maw of the British 

In January 1896 the tug of war between Great Britain 
and Brazil was still raging when suddenly the British garrison 
withdrew, surrendering its cable station and Trinidad itself 
to Brazil. The Brazilians, of course, had no use for the island; 
they just had not wanted English troops in the vicinity. Now 
they did not dare, after months of sound and fury, to hand 
the island over to an American adventurer. They agreed to 
retain possession of it on paper. It is unlikely that any Brazil- 
ian in his right mind was ever induced to spend a night on 
the island. As in the beginning, Trinidad again belonged to 
the turtles. 

Harden-Hickey had lost. In the past he had always been 
able to bounce back into some new project. But Trinidad 
had become an obsession. Letters of solace poured in, crack- 
pot and legitimate, offering him partnership in various 
schemes. One of the more tempting came in an envelope post- 
marked San Francisco, from an army veteran named Ral- 
ston J. Markowe, who -had undertaken to restore Queen 
Liliuokalani to the Hawaiian throne and failed. Markowe, 
still representing the Hawaiian royalist party, offered Harden- 
Hickey a place to hang his crown. "It is the island of Kauai 
on which I propose to establish you as an independent sov- 
ereign," the letter read. Markowe had a 1 46-ton vessel and 
276 men ready to land in the first and only wave. Harden- 
Hickey was not interested, though he carried Markowe's 
letter around with him for two years. 

While he knew he could not recover Trinidad, his obses- 
sion now took the form of revenging himself upon Great 
Britain. His head swam with fantasies, until he clung to one. 
He would keep his honor unsullied by launching an invasion 
of England through Ireland. The plan seemed eminently 
logical, but required vast sums of money. He swallowed his 
pride and approached John H. Flagler. His father-in-law, 

(57 ) 

The Square Pegs 

holding no grudge against England, thought that he had 
taken leave of his senses. 

He wanted funds desperately now, less for Harden-Hickey 
than for King James I, deposed. Several money-raising ef- 
forts failed. His ace in the hole was a large ranch he owned 
in Mexico. He wrote his wife, who had leased a home in 
Riverside, California, that he was on his way to Mexico to 
dispose of the property to the highest bidder. Early in Feb- 
ruary 1898 the last prospect backed down. The ranch could 
not be sold. 

Weary and heartsick, he decided to return to his wife and 
children in California. He crossed over into Texas and rode 
as far as El Paso. There he went to the Pierson Hotel and 
signed the register "Harden-Hickey, Paris." He remained in 
the hotel a week, avoiding the other guests. He seemed to 
be waiting for something. Later, someone thought he had 
heard him remark that he was waiting for money from 

On February 9, at 7: 30 in the evening, Harden-Hickey re- 
tired to his bedroom. He was not seen that evening. At 
twelve o'clock noon, the day following, February 10, the 
chambermaids entering to clean discovered him lying rigidly 
across his bed. It was at once apparent that he was not sleep- 
ing. A doctor was summoned. Harden-Hickey had com- 
mitted suicide by taking an overdose of morphine. Pinned to 
the chair beside his bed was a letter addressed to his wife: 

My Dearest. No ne<ws -from you, although you have had 
plenty of time to answer. Hardes has 'written me that he has 
no one in view for buying my land at present. Well, I shall 
have drained the cup of bitterness to the very dregs, but I 
do not complain. I prefer to be a. dead gentleman to a living 
blackguard like your father. Goodby. 1 -forgive your con- 
duct toward me and trust you will be able to -forgive your- 


The King of Thirty -Sixth Street 

In his hand trunk, among his personal effects, were found 
Markowe's letter offering him a throne in Hawaii, and the 
crown he had never worn as King James I of Trinidad. 

He was on the front pages again. The New York Tribune 
and New York Times gave the news prominence, with iden- 
tical headlines: "Harden-Hickey A Suicide." John H. Flagler 
left New York immediately by train for California. The press 
trapped him in St. Louis. He made a statement to one and 
all. "Personally I do not believe that he meant to take his 
life. He was a man of highly wrought nervous organization, 
and for years had sought relief from insomnia in the use of 
sedatives and narcotics. He was an habitual user of chloral in 
various forms. It appears from statements made to me that 
he took some of the drug without effect, and later took 
another dose. Neither dose would have killed him, but the 
combination was fatal. He had been troubled with a heart 
affliction for years and could not live in high altitudes. His 
heart weakness may have aided the drug in causing his death. 
He was a man of cheerful nature, had all any man can de- 
sire plenty of money and a happy home. I never heard of 
any financial reverses which might have caused despondency." 
When Flagler finished his statement a St. Louis reporter asked 
what he thought of Harden-Hickey's reference to him as a 
"blackguard" in the farewell note. Flagler did his best, "with 
dignity," the press reported. "I have no personal knowledge 
that the Baron left any such communication," said Flagler. 
"I was a good friend to the Baron, and was ready to go to 
his assistance. If he left a letter tending to show that he was 
depressed, that in itself would be no sign that he took his 
life. Among other eccentricities of his genius he had a tend- 
ency to melancholy, which sometimes him say strange 

On February 12 the El Paso police physician reaffirmed 
that Harden-Hickey's death came "from drugs taken with 
suicidal intent." The same day his personal effects, including 


The Square Pegs 

the royal crown, were forwarded to his wife in Riverside, 
California. His remains were shipped at his wife's request to 
his mother, Mrs. E. C. Hickey, in San Francisco. 

The New York press, in the three days following his 
death, gave considerable space to his Parisian and Trinidad 
adventures. But in all the columns of copy, no New York 
paper was enterprising or sentimental enough to refer to the 
foreword of Harden-Hickey's last book, Euthanasia; the Aes- 
thetics of Suicide: 

"Away with darkness where ignorance creeps in slimy filth, 
let Truth show herself in her splendid nudity, in her ideal 
beauty. I now see thy face, it illumines my way. I sought for 
thee during many weary years and under many bitter diffi- 
culties; and when thou knewest that I would never renounce 
the hope of finding thee and that I would pursue thee, not 
only in this life, but through a thousand incarnations, thou 
earnest to me saying: 

" 'Here am I, what wilt thou?' 

" 'Disclose to me the enigma, the remedy to the evils of 
life?' was my prayer; and thine answer was: 

" 'Death.' " 


The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

"Remember Jules Verne's ''Around The World In 
Eighty Days'? He stole my thunder. Pm Phileas 


The inspiration for the most popular novel Jules Verne 
was to write came to him one day late in 1871 while 
he sat in his favorite cafe in Amiens absently leafing through 
a French periodical. 

For months the press had been filled with the disaster of 
the Franco-Prussian War. Verne had followed the short, bit- 
ter conflict closely. He had read about Worth and Metz, 
about the capture of Napoleon III at Sedan, about the be- 
sieged citizens of Paris forced to partake of their beloved 
elephants in the Zoological Gardens for sustenance, about the 
Prussians encamped two days on the shuttered Champs- 
Elysees. Verne sighed with relief when Adolphe Thiers put 
his pen to the peace, even though it meant conceding much 
of Alsace-Lorraine and a one-billion-dollar indemnity to Bis- 

But though the war was over, the press promised no relief 
from violence. A savage civil strife was under way. Leon 
Gambetta, the one-eyed French-Italian deputy from Mar- 
seilles who had fled Paris in a balloon, rallied the new republic 
to suppress the Communards, a fanatical uprising of ordinary 
laborers, National Guardsmen, and communists who had the 

( 6 1 ) 

The Square Pegs 

blessings of Karl Marx from his headquarters in* the British 

For Jules Verne, whose growing reputation at forty-three 
was based on novels of the future inspired by events of the 
moment, the periodical he held in his hands, with its painful 
political reportage, held little hope of either inspiration or 

And then, suddenly, as he remembered years later, his gaze 
fell upon a curious account from abroad. 

An eccentric American millionaire had circled the globe 
in eighty days, an incredible accomplishment in that era of 
carriages, sailing vessels, and erratic iron horses. It was this 
new record for speed against countless obstacles that struck 
Verne at once, this "new possibility of making the circuit in 
eighty days." 

Hastily Verne read on, devouring every detail of the 
American traveler's difficulties and adventures. The Ameri- 
can, a Bostonian named George Francis Train, had sped from 
New York to San Francisco through red-Indian country 
in seven days aboard the new Union Pacific train. He had 
left California on August i, 1870, and arrived in Japan a 
mere twenty-five days later. In Tokyo he had astonished the 
Mikado's subjects by joining them, in the nude, in a public 
bath. After putting Hong Kong, Saigon, and Singapore be- 
hind him, Train passed through the recently opened Suez 
Canal in the Mediterranean, and thence to Marseilles. In 
Marseilles he became a leader of the Commune, was jailed 
for two weeks in Lyons, met Gambetta in Tours, then hired 
a private wagons-tits coach and raced across France to the 
Channel. From Liverpool he caught a ship for America, and 
returned to his destination after eighty days of almost per- 
petual motion. 

Jules Verne was fascinated. In 1871 the idea of circling the 
world at great speed was almost as dramatic as the science 
fiction he had created earlier about an underwater boat that 
could travel fifty miles an hour on an exploration beneath 

( 62 ) 

The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

the oceans and beneath the Isthmus of Suez (by use of a 
tunnel). Inspired by George Francis Train's adventures, as 
well as by the postwar advertisements of Cook's Tours in 
shopwindows, Verne began to draft his hero, Phileas Fogg, 
and his story, Around the World in Eighty Days. 

He finished writing the novel in November 1872. But be- 
fore permitting his friend Pierre Jule Hetzel to publish it as 
one of the "Voyages Extraordinaires" he agreed to its seri- 
alization in the popular press. It appeared in Le Temps, a 
chapter a day in feuilleton that is, in the literary supple- 
ment during the early part of 1873. 

- It was not literature, but it was high adventure of the most 
thrilling sort, and it delighted Verne fans then, even as it 
continues to delight them to this day. By the alchemy of fic- 
tion Verne transformed the emotional and erratic American, 
George Francis Train, into the emotionless and precise Eng- 
lishman, Phileas Fogg, Esq., enigmatic and respected mem- 
ber of the London Reform Club. Using Train's actual esca- 
pades as the basis of his story, Verne had Phileas Fogg wager 
40,000 pounds that he could circle the globe in eighty days, 
and then forced Fogg to traverse a portion of India on an 
elephant, rescue a Parsi girl named Aouda from a flaming 
pyre, outwit a detective in China who thought him a thief, 
reach Omaha on a sledge bearing sails, cross the Atlantic by 
burning the superstructure of his steamer for fuel, and finally 
arrive in London one day late only to learn, at the last 
moment, that he had gained a day by traveling eastward 
around the world. 

The sensation created by the publication of this story was 
enormous. No Gallic armchair adventurer was without his 
Temps. English and American foreign correspondents cabled 
entire chapters daily to their papers in England and the 
United States, treating Phileas Fogg's progress as straight 
news. The citizenry of three nations breathlessly, and simul- 
taneously, followed each installment, and many wagered on 
the success or failure of Phileas Fogg's race against time. 

The Square Pegs 

"Seldom has any piece of fiction excited such a furor," wrote 
Charles F. Home, who edited an American edition of Verne's 
collected works. "Liberal offers were made to the author by 
various transportation companies, if he would advertise their 
routes by having his hero travel by them. And when the 
final passage of the Atlantic from America to England was 
to be accomplished, the bids for notice by the various trans- 
atlantic lines are said to have reached fabulous sums." 

Verne did not have to compromise or commercialize his 
story to obtain "fabulous sums." With the publication of 
Around the World in Eighty Days as a novel, and its adapta- 
tion into a play which ran in Paris for three years, and after 
that in Vienna, Brussels, London, and New York, Verne's 
fortune was made. It is known that he bought a yacht, and 
it is said that he acquired a mistress. Until his death in 1905 
his villa in Amiens was a Mecca for travelers. 

Inspired by Fogg, a Hungarian army officer named Lubo- 
witz rode from Vienna to Paris in fifteen days to win a bet, 
and was received as a guest by Verne for two days. In 1889 
an aggressive brunette from the New York World, Nellie 
Ely, carrying gripsack and shoulder bag, paused on her jour- 
ney into fame to burst upon the surprised Verne in his tower 
room at Amiens and inform him that she would beat Phileas 
Fogg's record. Verne was politely doubtful, but wished her 
luck. Miss Ely lowered Fogg's record by eight days. 

In 1901 a journalist representing the Echo* de Paris, 
Stiegler by name, interrupted his sixty-three-day tour of the 
world to shake hands with Verne in the Amiens depot. In 
the best of humor, Verne glanced over his visitor's shoulder 
and said: "But I don't see Miss Aouda." Stiegler smiled. 
"Reality is inferior to the imagination, Monsieur Verne. I 
didn't even meet her." 

They all paid homage to Verne, except the one who was 
really Phileas Fogg. George Francis Train and Verne never 
met. And Train would not condescend to visit the man he 
felt owed him so much. 

The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

Around the World in Eighty Days was filled with inci- 
dents and activities that closely paralleled the life and travels 
of George Francis Train. There were differences, of course: 
Verne had Fogg travel east around the world, whereas Train 
had actually traveled west. Verne made Fogg a mechanical 
man, whereas Train was an impulsive, explosive human being. 
But the handsome, bewhiskered Fogg had in common with 
the handsome, mustached Train a reputation for eccentricity, 
a compulsion to read newspapers excessively, a lack of in- 
terest in sight-seeing when on the road, a predilection for 
squalls and typhoons, and an utter disregard for the extrava- 
gances involved in chartering special transportation. 

In his 1 00,000- word autobiography, dictated in thirty-five 
working hours and published the year before his death, Train 
made constant claim to being the prototype for Phileas Fogg. 
In recording his account of the trip, he stated: "I went around 
the world in eighty days in the year 1870, two years before 
Jules Verne wrote his famous romance, Le Tour du monde 
en quatre-vingts jours, which was founded upon my voy- 
age." Speaking again of the eighty days, he wrote: "Jules 
Verne, two years later, wrote fiction of my fact." And in 
summarizing his four trips around the world, Train said: 
"One of these voyages, the one in which I put a girdle round 
the earth in eighty days, has the honor of having given the 
suggestion for one of the most interesting romances in lit- 

Once, in London, on a second and faster journey around 
the globe, shortly after he had been declared insane by a 
Boston judge (though, actually, few ever seriously thought 
him insane), Train exploded to English reporters: "Remem- 
ber Jules Verne's 'Around The World In Eighty Days'? He 
stole my thunder. I'm Phileas Fogg. But I have beaten Fogg 
out of sight. What put the notion into my head? Well, Fin 
possessed of great psychic force." 

As a matter of fact, the author Verne and the merchant 
Train had much in common. Both were interested in the 

The Square Pegs 

growing technology, in mechanical progress, in speed. Both 
ranged far ahead of their time. It was only their methods 
that differed. Verne confined his dreams of progress to paper, 
where they were acceptable; Train tried to make his real, 
and was often rebuffed. 

Train was Phileas Fogg for eighty days, but he was much 
more for almost eighty years. Beside him, the fictional Fogg 
was a one-dimensional dullard. For no author could have 
invented Train or transferred all of him to manuscript, 
and made him half believable. 

George Francis Train was born in Boston on March 24, 
1829. As an infant he was taken by his family to New Or- 
leans, where his father opened a general store. In 1833, when 
Train was four, the great yellow-fever epidemic hit New 
Orleans. Families hammered together their own pine coffins, 
and deposited them on passing "dead wagons." Train lost his 
mother and three sisters in the dreadful plague. At last a 
letter came from his maternal grandmother in Waltham, 
Massachusetts, begging his father to a send on some one of 
the family, before they are all dead. Send George." 

Train's father, before meeting his own death by the fever, 
sent the boy aboard the ship Henry with an identity card 
pinned to his coat. After twenty-three days at sea without a 
change of clothes, the four-year-old boy reached Waltham. 
From the day he entered the Pickering farm, he was in re- 
volt. The members of his family were strict Methodists. 
Their only topical reading was a weekly periodical called 
Ziorfs Herald. When his great-grandfather, who wore a fez 
and tippled, and his grandmother, who smoked a pipe, in- 
sisted that he learn to pray, Train complied but he would 
not kneel. "I could not see the necessity of God, and no one 
could ever explain to me the reason why there should be, or 
is, a God," he said later. "Morality and ethics I could see the 
necessity of, and the high and authoritative reason for; but 


The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

religion never appealed to my intelligence or to my emo- 

He helped to sell the family's farm produce. He attended 
school. But when there was talk of preparing him for the 
clergy, or at least for the profession of blacksmith, he walked 
out. He was fourteen when he left the farm for a job in a 
Cambridgeport grocery. It was hard work. He labored from 
four o'clock daybreak until ten in the evening for fifty dol- 
lars a year. This went on for two years, and might have 
gone on longer but for the fact that one day he had a visitor 
who changed his entire life. 

His father's cousin, a wealthy, conservative gentleman, 
Colonel Enoch Train, came calling in a splendid carriage. 
He made polite inquiries, then returned to the granite building 
at 37 Lewis Wharf, Boston, which housed the shipping enter- 
prises of Train and Company. 

The following day, Train quit the grocery and appeared 
in Colonel Enoch's office. "Where do I come in?" he bluntly 
asked. The Colonel was shocked. "Come in? Why, people 
don't come into a big shipping house like this in that way. 
You are too young." Train stood his ground, "I am grow- 
ing older every day. That is the reason I am here. I want to 
make my way in the world." It was a day when audacity 
was still respected. Train was put to work with the book- 

The Colonel's shipping house was never quite the same 
after that. In two years the tall, darkly attractive Train had 
become manager of the firm, and within four years he was 
receiving $10,000 annually as a partner. Completely unin- 
hibited, Train modernized the business. The Colonel's aged 
clippers were receiving stiff competition from the Black Ball 
Line and from Cunard's new steamships. When the gold rush 
began in California, Train made his employer divert forty 
packets from the English run to the race around the Cape. 
Dismayed that their largest vessel was only 800 tons, Train 

(67 ) 

The Square Pegs 

prodded the dazed old man into contracting for larger, faster 
ships. As a result, Donald McKay was commissioned to build 
a radically new kind of boat, one with a sharp bow that 
sliced through or clipped the water. His most spectacular 
product for Train and Company was the z,ooo-ton Flying 
Cloud, whose canvas soared ninety feet into the air and car- 
ried her around Cape Horn to California in a record-smash- 
ing eighty-nine days. She was followed by the 2,ioo-ton 
Monarch Of The Seas. The former was sold to the Swallow- 
Tail Line for $90,000, twice her cost, and the latter to a 
company in Germany for $110,000. 

But though he helped the Colonel, Train did not ignore 
himself. He decided to try a little exporting and importing 
on his own. He inveigled a company captain into smuggling 
three tins of opium into China in return for silks and curios. 
His share of the subsequent profits was an eye opener. 

Besides filling his pockets, Train also fed his ego. He liked 
to meet renowned personalities. One of his first contacts with 
celebrity occurred quite by accident. In October 1847, Train 
remembered later, "a gentleman, looking like a farmer, came 
into the office" and requested passage to England on a boat 
sailing in an hour. Train told him there was one seventy- 
five-dollar stateroom left, and then asked his name. " 'Ralph 
Waldo Emerson,' he replied. Then he took out of his pocket 
an old wallet, with twine wrapped around it four or five 
times, opened it carefully, and counted out seventy-five dol- 
lars. . . . Mr. Emerson was then starting on his famous visit 
to England, during which he was to visit Carlyle." 

In line of duty, Train met Nathaniel Hawthorne in the 
Boston customhouse. "He seemed very unassuming, and not 
in very affluent circumstances. I suppose his salary from the 
Government at the time Was not more than $1,000 a year." 
When a company ship sank off Boston Light, and it was 
thought that the captain had sunk it for the insurance, Train 
hurried to the office of Daniel Webster, the hard-drinking, 
hard-eating future secretary of State. "I remember now the 


The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

roar of his great deep voice as he responded to my knock. 
. . . He sat at his flat desk, a magnificent example of man- 
hood, his massive head set squarely and solidly upon his 

Webster was grateful for a $1,000 retainer, and later repaid 
Train by getting him into the White House to meet President 
Zachary Taylor. Train, then twenty-one, spent an awed half 
hour with "Old Rough and Ready," a man who had never 
cast a vote in his life. "He wore a shirt that was formerly 
white, but which then looked like the map of Mexico after 
the battle of Buena Vista. It was spotted and spattered with 
tobacco juice. Directly behind me, as I was soon made aware, 
was a cuspidor, toward which the President turned the flow 
of tobacco juice. I was in mortal terror, but I soon saw there 
was no danger ... he never missed the cuspidor once, or 
put my person in jeopardy." 

In the years that followed, Train met Napoleon III and 
the Empress Eugenie and was impressed, saw the elderly 
Duke of Wellington at a party in London and was not im- 
pressed, guided Secretary of State William H. Seward about 
Paris and decided he knew little "of European thought and 
power," and paid the stranded Edwin Booth's passage home 
from Australia, though he "never received a word of thanks 
or appreciation from Booth." 

By 1850 Tram's value to the Colonel was so great that he 
was awarded a one-sixth partnership in the firm and pro- 
moted to the position of European manager. In Liverpool 
he had twenty-five clerks working under him and four ships 
ferrying steel, crockery, and dry goods across the Atlantic. 

Back in the United States on a visit, Train was waiting 
for transportation on the Syracuse railroad platform, when 
his gaze fell upon an attractive, brown-eyed Southern girl. 
It was love at first sight. Impulsively, he sat opposite her 
and the family doctor who was chaperoning her. He struck 
up a conversation, learned that she was Wilhelmina Wilkin- 
son Davis, a relation of Jefferson Davis and the daughter of a 

The Square Pegs 

former Army Colonel who was editor of the Louisville Cour- 
ier. Doggedly, Train followed her on a sight-seeing excursion 
to Niagara Falls, and there, he said, "our love was mutually 
discovered and confessed amid the roaring accompaniment of 
the great cataract." Though a Northerner, he was acceptable 
to Wilhelmina's family. They were married in the Louisville 
Episcopal Church in October 1851. She was seventeen; he 
was twenty-two. 

Returning to Liverpool in stormy seas, Train was responsi- 
ble for ordering the rescue of two hundred persons on a 
floundering ship carrying railroad iron. After another year in 
Liverpool dabbling in phrenology, visiting the mansions of 
the titled, suggesting decorations for Prince Albert's Crystal 
Palace, Train became restless. The Colonel, he felt, was 
holding him down. He was destined for bigger things. 

He hastened back to Boston and demanded a full partner- 
ship. Colonel Enoch's reaction was one of mild apoplexy. 
After a terrible scene the Colonel offered him a larger share 
of the business, a share amounting to $15,000 a year. Train 
waited for the contract and then, instead of signing it, tore it 
up. He had decided to go off on his own. He would go to 
Melbourne, Australia, which had been founded less than 
twenty years before and was in the midst of a gold rush. The 
Colonel, it must be said, accepted the decision with good 

The journey from New York to Australia took ninety-two 
days. Train occupied himself, on the clipper Bavaria, by hook- 
ing a shark, harpooning a porpoise, and catching an albatross. 
He traveled not only with his wife, but also with clerks 
hired in Boston, crates of business forms and books, and con- 
tracts to purchase Australian gold for one firm and to export 
South Seas goods for another. Despite the gold rush, he ex- 
pected to find a desolate, isolated Australia, and was speech- 
less when he counted six hundred ships in Sandridge Harbor, 
the port of Melbourne. 


The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

Train wasted no time. His activity was as feverish during 
his first week Down Under as it would be every week of his 
two-year stay. He needed a warehouse in Sandridge. He or- 
dered one built in Boston and shipped in sections, thus an- 
ticipating prefabricated building by almost a century. The 
six-story warehouse cost him $25,000. Then, dissatisfied with 
the crude buildings of Melbourne, he constructed his own 
corner offices in the heart of the city for $60,000. The city's 
population had doubled to forty thousand persons almost 
overnight. Train made a spectacular bid for their business, 
Installing marble trading-counters in his headquarters and lav- 
ishing free champagne lunches on impressed customers. He 
sold gold, sold a no-day transportation service to Boston, 
imported Concord stagecoaches, imported canned foods. In 
a year his profit in commissions was $95,000. 

Train was fascinated by Australia. He introduced not only 
Yankee vehicles, but also American bowling and the Fourth 
of July to Melbourne. But when his wife became pregnant a 
second time their first child, a girl, had died in her fifth 
month Train packed her off to the United States. Not only 
did he want more civilized conditions for her, but he wanted 
the boy born on American soil so that he might be eligible 
for the American presidency. The boy turned out to be a 
girl, named Susan, and she was born in Liverpool, en route 
to Boston. Later, indeed, there were two boys, George and 
Elsey, who grew up to become bankers in Omaha. But Susan 
was Train's favorite. She married a man named Gulager, 
who worked in the New York Subtreasury, and lived in 
Stamford, Connecticut, where Train often visited her. 

His wife's departure from Melbourne was actually well 
timed. For shortly after, twenty thousand miners in the Ball- 
arat and Bendigo fields revolted against new government re- 
strictions. The government had saddled the gold miners with 
increased license fees and banned them from participation in 
the provincial government. With a roar of protest, the armed, 

(71 ) 

The Square Pegs 

unruly miners marched on Melbourne, killing forty-one sol- 
diers in the process, burning down the Bentley's Hotel, and 
erecting a stockade in the ruins. 

They made plans to establish a democratic Five Star Re- 
public. But first they needed more weapons. One of their 
number, an American citizen, James McGill, offered to lead 
a raid on a government shipment. No sooner had McGill 
left for the raid than government troops swarmed over the 
miners' stockade and crushed it. 

Posters appeared throughout Melbourne offering 1,000 
pounds for McGill, dead or alive. Still he did not surrender. 
Unable to execute his raid, unable to return to his base, he 
determined to find the vital arms inside Melbourne. In his 
desperation, he turned to George Francis Train. 

Train had been sympathetic toward the miners. And they, 
in turn, admired him. They felt kinship toward an individ- 
ualist who came from a nation that had once upended British 
authority. They proffered him the presidency of their pro- 
jected Five Star Republic. Train declined. "I neither wanted 
it, nor could I have obtained it," he remarked years after. 

Train was in his office one morning, working at his desk, 
when the fugitive McGill slipped into the room, locked the 
door, and stood before him. "I hear that you have some 
eighty thousand dollars' worth of Colt's revolvers in stock," 
McGill began. "I have been sent down here to get them." 

Train stared at him. "Do you know that there is a re- 
ward for your head of one thousand pounds?" 

"That does not mean anything." 

Train became angry. "This will not do. You have no right 
to compromise me in this way." 

"We have elected you president of our republic." 

"Damn the republic ... I am not here to lead or en- 
courage revolutions, but to carry on my business." 

In that tense moment, there was a knock on the door. It 
was the Melbourne Chief of Police. Hastily, Train hid Mc- 
Gill, admitted the Chief, learned that he merely wanted to 

(7* ) 

The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

requisition some Concord wagons. Train got rid of him, then 
returned to the fugitive. "Now, McGill, I am not going to 
betray you, but am going to save your life. You must do as 
I tell you." 

Train found a barber and had him shave off McGilTs 
mustache and cut his hair. Then Train had McGill change 
into laborers' clothes. In this guise McGill was led to the 
safety of one of Train's clippers, where he was put to work 
as a stevedore. Three days later he was safe at sea and with 
him went Train's prospects for the Australian presidency. 

Actually, Train had more ambitious plans. He felt that his 
Australian commission business was too limited and that the 
New Englanders he dealt with were too conservative. He 
decided to pull up roots and move north. A year before, 
Commodore Matthew Perry and his seven black ships had 
sailed into Yedo Bay and opened Japan to world trade. Train 
set his sights on a new business in Yokohama. 

Though he started out for Japan, he never quite reached 
it. When he arrived in Shanghai, he learned that all sailings 
for Yokohama had been canceled and would not be resumed 
until the Crimean War peace treaty had been settled. But 
neither the journey toward Japan nor the long voyage home 
after was wasted. The sights Train saw and the adventures 
he met stimulated a lifelong odyssey that took him four times 
around the world and across the Atlantic on twenty-seven 
different occasions. 

From the moment Train left Australia he peppered the 
pages of the New York Herald with a provocative running 
commentary on his travels. Sailing through the Strait of 
Sunda, he saw the volcanic island of Krakatau threaten erup- 
tion. And erupt it finally did, exactly twenty-eight years 
later, in the loudest blast in all history (heard as far away as 
Australia), an explosion that sent waves halfway around the 
earth to the English Channel. He halted in Singapore to visit 
a Chinese millionaire and his two pet tigers, rode from Hong 
Kong to Canton with H. E. Green, the future husband of 

(73 ) 

The Square Pegs 

Hetty Green, and strolled about Manchu-ruled Shanghai 
shuddering at the "gory heads of rebels hanging from the 

Continuing his travels 8 , he visited the Black Hole of Cal- 
cutta and felt that "there have been many worse catastro- 
phes." He approved of the cremation pyres on the Ganges 
because they were economical, costing only one-half cent 
per body. He found nine flying fish dead in his berth near 
Aden. He took a donkey to the Pyramids. He was shocked 
by Palestine. "For three days I saw nothing but humbug 
and tinsel, lying and cheating, ugly women, sand-fleas and 
dogs." He was revolted by Bethlehem, "disgusted at being 
taken down two flights and shown an old wet cave as the 
place where the Saviour was said to have been born." He 
visited Balaklava in the Crimea and reported that the Charge 
of the Light Brigade had been "a terribly exaggerated af- 
fair, so far as massacre was concerned." 

When he returned to New York in July 1856, the Herald 
greeted him with sixteen full columns of his letters from 
abroad and James Gordon Bennett met him with the request 
that he run for Congress. But the wanderlust was, for the 
moment, more important to him than politics. 

In 1856 he returned to Europe with his wife and infant 
daughter, taking up residence in Paris at the Grand-Hotel du 
Louvre, in the rue de Rivoli. He contracted to write a series 
of financial articles for Merchants' Magazine and determined 
to become a linguist like the German businessmen he had met 
in the East. He already knew German. Now he hired a 
Catholic priest to tutor him in French and Italian. When he 
wasn't studying he was trying to enter European society. He 
mingled with French counts, Spanish dukes, and tsarist 
princes, and felt what he learned from them "made up for 
the loss of a college career." He was childishly happy to be 
invited to a formal ball given by Napoleon III in the Tuileries. 
There were four thousand guests, many waltzing to an or- 


The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

chestra led personally by Johann Strauss. Train was pleased 
to meet the Emperor's current mistress and to speak to the 
Empress Eugenie in French. 

He did not remain in Paris long. He went to Rome, where 
a fiery Italian delegation welcomed him as a liberator. He 
was certain they mistook him for Garibaldi, but it turned out 
that they knew who he was. Nevertheless, he wanted no 
part of their violence. "The curious thing about the affair," 
he reflected later, "was that here, as everywhere, these peo- 
ple regarded me as a leader of revolts Carbonari, La Com- 
mune, Chartists, Fenians, Internationals as if I were ready 
for every species of deviltry. For fifteen years, five or six 
governments kept their spies shadowing me in Europe and 

In 1857 he went to Russia armed with a social message 
from a mutual friend to the Tsar's younger brother, the 
Grand Duke Constantine. Train tracked the Grand Duke to 
his country residence in Strelna, near St. Petersburg. After 
that he was royally treated. He found Moscow the most 
impressive city he had ever seen. "There is something primi- 
tive and prehistoric about it. ... I was astonished to find in 
the Kremlin a portrait of Napoleon at the battle of Boro- 

But Train was more than a tourist. In every country he 
carefully made business contacts. It was after his return to 
Paris from Moscow that one of these contacts paid off hand- 
somely. And soon Train was embroiled in the first of several 
financial jugglings that were to make him a millionaire. 

He had met Queen Maria Cristina of Spain, one of the 
wealthiest women in the world. He had also met her financial 
adviser, Don Jose de Salamanca, the Spanish banking giant. 
Train swiftly made use of these acquaintances. He learned 
that when the United States had bought Florida from Spain, 
part of the purchase money had been deposited to the Queen's 
credit in the Bank of the United States. After the bank was 


The Square Pegs 

liquidated, the Queen's cash assets were invested in forty 
thousand acres of Pennsylvania real estate, land rich in coal 
and iron ore. 

It troubled Train that these forty thousand acres were 
lying unexploked. He had long had an idea that a rail link 
should be constructed between the Erie Railroad and the 
Ohio and Mississippi Railroad, thus uniting the East and the 
Midwest. Now he saw that this link could be built across 
the Queen's property in Pennsylvania, enriching her holdings 
a hundredfold. He approached her, and she was interested. 
It was all the encouragement Train required. 

He darted in and out of Paris, London, New York, and 
Pennsylvania, trying to pull the deal together. He needed 
solid financing. He tried to see the Queen's banker, Don 
Jose de Salamanca. He had no luck until he offered to lend 
him a million dollars. Salamanca's interest was piqued. But, 
instead of lending the Spaniard a million, Train walked out 
with Salamanca's signature on notes for a million. With this 
money pledged, Train wangled $2,200,000 worth of credit 
from manufacturers of iron in Wales. With the financing 
completed, Train permitted the Queen's representative in 
London, James McHenry, who had made a fortune export- 
ing dairy products from America, to take over and push the 
project to completion. 

Train collected $100,000 in commissions. The four hun- 
dred miles of the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad were 
built across three states, including the Queen's acres. The 
railroad proved a terrible failure. It went into receivership 
three times in thirteen years before it finally became a suc- 
cess as part of the Erie Railroad. In the end, the Queen saw 
no profits. And the invincible Don Jose de Salamanca had 
nothing to show for his gamble beyond a sea of red ink 
and a town named Salamanca in New York. 

Train, however, was heady with his coup and certain that 
he could make more money by concentrating on transporta- 
tion. Impressed by horse-drawn streetcars in Philadelphia and 

The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

New York, he decided to promote them, with a few innova- 
tions of his own, in Europe. England, especially, seemed a 
likely place. Train had long been appalled by the snail's pace 
of its carriage traffic. Further, he felt that English labor 
sorely needed a cheap means of public transportation. 

He took his radical ideas to Liverpool. They were promptly 
rejected by the authorities, who felt that his trams would 
clutter the thoroughfares and provide unfair competition for 
the omnibuses. He moved on to neighboring Birkenhead, and 
there found that an old shipbuilding friend was chairman of 
the city commissioners. By promising many concessions 
among them that he would rip up his tracks and repair the 
streets at his own expense if the system proved a nuisance 
Train was given permission to proceed with a "horse tram- 
way." He laid four miles of tracks, provided spacious street- 
cars, each drawn by horses, and inaugurated the line on Au- 
gust 30, 1860. The tramway was an immediate sensation. 

Certain that he had overcome all opposition, Train stormed 
into London. But there he ran into a stone wall. The omni- 
bus people, fearing competition, and the gentry, objecting to 
overcrowded passages, vigorously opposed him. Train fought 
the harder, and finally by his eloquence gained permission 
for an experimental two-mile track from Hyde Park to Bays- 

Though the omnibus drivers tried to sabotage him by 
wrecking his rails with their vehicles, and though the gentry 
had him jailed once for creating a nuisance, Train might 
have succeeded but for an unfortunate accident. One day a 
small boy was run down by a tram. The uproar was tre- 
mendous. Train was arrested for manslaughter. Though he 
was acquitted, the bill authorizing extension of his streetcar 
lines was voted down in Parliament. 

Undeterred, Train continued to promote his street rail- 
ways. Glasgow and Birmingham rejected them; Staffordshire 
allowed him to construct seven miles of track. Gradually, 
Train broke down resistance, and eventually he saw his street- 

(77 ) 

The Square Pegs 

cars spread throughout Great Britain and then to Copen- 
hagen, Geneva, and Bombay. 

Train's battle for cheap transportation in England was a 
minor skirmish compared with another battle he fought, 
against the British upper classes on behalf of the Union cause 
in the Civil War. It was the eve of Fort Sumter. English 
nobility, distrusting the North's radical democracy, feeling 
kinship for the South's culture, allied itself with English 
industrialists, who needed Southern cotton, in backing the 
Confederacy. Only the inarticulate British masses, who 
sensed that Lincoln's ideals were their own, sided with the 

If the British people were inarticulate, George Francis 
Train was not. He appointed himself their spokesman. He 
took to the public platform, wrote pamphlets, and published 
a newspaper in an effort to keep England from going into 
the Civil War on the side of the South. 

His speechmaking was shrewd. He realized that many Brit- 
ish laborers could not afford to hear him and that many 
white-collar workers would not want to hear him, so he 
offered to speak gratis on behalf of local charities. Into his 
appearances he injected the atmosphere of a revival meeting; 
Often he led off by singing "De Camptown Races," then in- 
vited the audience to join him in the chorus. It was fun. And 
what followed was often fun, too. After the bombardment 
of Fort Sumter, Train told listeners: "We invented railways 
and Mississippi steamboats. We have invented a new kind of 
war, fighting without killing anybody forty hours of bom- 
bardment and no bloodshed." 

Because the Union had no voice in the London press, Train 
financed his own propaganda sheet, the London American, 
published at 100 Fleet Street in a building decorated with 
the Stars and Stripes. The paper, which Train claimed had 
received a $100 contribution from Secretary of State Seward, 
frankly expounded the Northern cause and reprinted all of 
its publisher's speeches. 

(78 ) 

The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

Two incidents early in the war transformed Train's cam- 
paign from one of wit to one of intemperate bombast, and 
dangerously imperiled his person. The first was the reporting 
of the first Battle of Bull Run by the austere London Times. 
The second was the outcry of the entire English press against 
the boarding of the British mail-steamer Trent by Union 
Navy men. 

The Times had sent its renowned correspondent, Wil- 
liam H. Russell, a veteran of the Crimean War and the Sepoy 
Mutiny, on a tour of the United States. Russell reported that 
most Americans, influenced by Irish immigrants, disliked 
England. He made sly innuendoes about certain American 
democratic institutions such as the "street-railway-car." He 
met Lincoln and found himself "agreeably impressed with 
his shrewdness, humor, and natural sagacity," but doubted 
that he was a gentleman. All of this alarmed Train, but did 
not ruffle his sense of humor. As he remarked from one 
rostrum: "I can tell you, gentlemen, it is a notorious fact 
when The Times takes snuff all England sneezes." 

Then came Bull Run. The citizenry of the North was de- 
manding action. Union troops, in great number, were pre- 
maturely sent marching on Richmond. Between Washington 
and Richmond were four rivers and many streams. One of 
these streams, thirty miles west of Washington, was called 
Bull Run. There the outnumbered Confederate soldiery en- 
gaged the advancing Army of the Potomac in the first major 
clash of the war. 

From Washington spectators in wagons, ladies in carriages, 
and politicians on horseback hurried to a nearby hill to watch 
the progress of the battle. Among these spectators was Rus- 
sell. As the day wore on, military wagons approached the 
spectators. Then came Union soldiers fleeing in great dis- 
order and confusion, insisting that they were being pursued 
by Confederate cavalry. "I spoke to the men," Russell wrote, 
"and asked them over and over again not to be in such a 
hurry. 'There's no enemy to pursue you. All the cavalry in 


The Square Tegs 

the world could not get at you.' But I might as well have 
talked to stones." Russell reported that when he challenged 
the cowardice of one Union soldier, the man tried to shoot 
him, but his pistol jammed. Two days later, in Washing- 
ton, Russell continued to watch the retreat, "the jaded, dis- 
pirited, broken remnants of regiments passing onward, where 
and for what I knew not." 

To Train, reading these accounts in London, Russell 
seemed to be viciously slanting his news blaming the defeat 
at Bull Run on Northern inability and fear rather than on 
inexperience. At once Train struck out at The Times cor- 
respondent in print and on the lecture platform. He labeled 
the correspondent "Munchausen Russell" and "The English 
Libeler." He accused Russell of being a drunk and a liar. He 
attacked Russell for presenting "an eye-witness picture of a 
battle that he not only never saw, but was not within some 
miles of." He attacked him as a poor reporter who worked 
in a fog of intoxication. "Under the impulse of champagne 
and good brandy, he can paint a battle scene; but how shal- 
low, aside from this, how feeble, his correspondence generally 
appears." Actually, Train was unfair. Russell, if perhaps prej- 
udiced, was an honest reporter. He did see a portion of the 
Battle of Bull Run. And though he did drink, his consump- 
tion was considerably less than that of Grant. Nevertheless, 
Train's attack on Russell was effective in helping counteract 
British anti-Union propaganda. 

The Trent affair was another matter. It created universal 
resentment in England and gave Train much difficulty in his 
defense of the Union position. In 1861 the Union screw- 
sloop San Jacinto, commanded by Captain Charles Wilkes, 
intercepted the British steamer Trent 240 miles off Havana. 
In a violation of international law, of the kind of which the 
English themselves had been guilty in 1812, American seamen 
boarded the Trent, searched it for Confederate messages and 
mail, then removed by force four Southern passengers. The 
passengers thus abducted were John Slidell and James Mason, 


The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 
Confederate commissioners to France and Great Britain, and 
their secretaries. 

The English press cried insult and shouted for war. Train 
made speech after speech defending the Union position, but 
was constantly heckled. Nevertheless, he continued with his 
argument: "Let us have the evidence that Wilkes has broken 
the law. England might have the right of asylum, but if they 
went to war it would be a lunatic asylum." As time pro- 
gressed, Train softened his defense. At last he admitted that 
Slidell and Mason should be given up and indeed, five days 
later, Seward did surrender them, without apology, but with 
congratulations to England for "at last adopting the princi- 
ples of international law for which the United States had long 

Perhaps Train's most practical service to the Union cause 
was in what he termed "my exposure of blockade running 
from British ports/' In a stream of letters to the New York 
Herald Train revealed "the names of the men interested, the 
marks of the cargoes, and the destination of the shipments." 
This created intense feeling against Train, who, while he 
would not carry a gun, admitted that he carried a cane for 
use as a weapon. 

Before this feeling against him could lead to violence, 
Train suddenly decided to return home. He had conceived 
a plan whereby he would end the Civil War. At least a dozen 
other individuals, mostly Peace Democrats, had tried and 
failed. But Train, as a relative by marriage to Jeff erson Davis, 
felt that his presence and eloquence in Richmond would be 
enough. The only obstacle was in reaching the Confederacy. 
This obstacle, he felt, he could overcome when he received 
information that a ship named the Mavrockadatis, scheduled 
to sail from England to Newfoundland, was actually a block- 
ade-runner heading for a Southern port. Train secured pas- 
sage under the pseudonym of Oliver and was surprised when 
the ship actually went to Newfoundland. 

In Boston once more, Train was greeted enthusiastically 

( 81 ) 

The Square Pegs 

by the press, by hostesses, by organizations wishing him to 
speak. He took it all quite seriously. "I found that I had 
returned to my country the most popular American in public 
life," he recorded. He made several hasty, ill-conceived 
speeches. In one, after being presented by the Mayor of Bos- 
ton, he implored his fellow Americans to ignore English 
culture. "Let us think for ourselves for we are a superior 
race." In another address, after branding the English cow- 
ards, he announced that Lord Palmerston had murdered 
Prince Albert by feeding him draughts of poison, to satisfy 
his own ambitions. Most persons enjoyed the sensation of his 
remarks, but a few were sharply critical. The Cleve- 
land Leader., while crediting him for helping his nation in the 
Trent affair, admitted: "Since his return to this country he 
has given daily recurring proofs of his total absence of both 
decency and common sense. He is afflicted with diarrhea of 
words more than any person we have ever known." 

President Lincoln, however, was still grateful for Train's 
unofficial efforts on behalf of the Union in England. He in- 
vited Train to Washington. Train never forgot that he was 
"warmly received by the President," as well as by members 
of the Cabinet and a small group of senators. "I had heard 
very much, of course, about the freedom of speech of Mr. 
Lincoln, and was not, therefore, astonished to hear him re- 
late several characteristic anecdotes. In fact, three of the 
most prominent men in the United States at that time were 
striving to outdo one another in jests the President, Senator 
Nesmyth of Oregon, and Senator Nye." 

Train and his wife were among the five thousand persons 
invited to Lincoln's second inaugural ball. Mrs. Train, her 
hair powdered gold, wore a gown of blue silk and lace, and 
appeared, it may be presumed, with some reluctance. She 
was a Southerner, sympathetic to the Confederacy, and re- 
mained a source of much irritation to her husband through- 
out the conflict. 

( 82 ) 

The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

About this time Train, though only thirty-three, began to 
promote what was to be his last major venture. It was his 
greatest undertaking, and, most likely, his most profitable one. 
The project involved the financing and building of the Union 
Pacific Railroad. 

Train admitted that his idea grew out of his anger with 
the British for blocking his street railways. He was deter- 
mined to get even. He saw his chance when the British 
opened the Suez Canal as a short cut to the Orient. He would 
compete for Far Eastern trade by building a transcontinental 
railway across the Rocky Mountains, thus giving America a 
shorter route to the Orient. He approached Commodore 
Cornelius Vanderbilt with his visionary project. Vanderbilt 
told him: "If you attempt to build a railway across the desert 
and over the Rocky Mountains, the world will call you a 
lunatic." Despite this warning, Train went ahead on his own. 

In 1862 he obtained a charter from Congress to construct 
a road running from the Missouri River to California. When 
it came to raising the cash necessary to start the road, he was 
turned down everywhere. Then he remembered something 
from his foreign experience. "In Paris, a few years before, I 
had been much interested in new methods of finance as de- 
vised by the brothers Emile and Isaac Perrere. These shrewd 
and ingenious men, finding that old methods could not be 
used to meet many demands of modern times, invented en- 
tirely new ones which they organized into two systems 
known as the Credit Mobilier and the Credit Foncier or 
systems of credit based on personal property and land." 

Through the Pennsylvania legislature Train established the 
Credit Mobilier of America. While the United States gov- 
ernment financed the Union Pacific, it was the Credit Mo- 
bilier that served as a trust to finance the actual construction 
of the railroad. Immediately, Train raised $1,400,000 from 
sixteen friends in Boston, including Cyrus H. McCormick 
and William H. Macy. He himself invested $150,000. 

The Square Pegs 

On December 2, 1863, ground was broken near Omaha 
for the first mile of the Union Pacific. Train was the only 
one of the original founders present. He made a speech and 
a glowing promise. "Ten millions of immigrants will settle in 
this golden land in twenty years," he said. "If I had not lost 
all my energy, ambition, and enterprise, I would take hold of 
this immigration scheme, but the fact is I have gone too fast, 
and today I am the best played-out man in the country." 
This self-analysis was not inaccurate, yet Train was business- 
man enough to buy himself 5,000 lots in Omaha. He realized 
that the railroad would make Omaha. Before his death, these 
lots were worth $30,000,000. 

Train predicted that the Union Pacific would be com- 
pleted by 1870. For this prediction, he complained, he was 
"denounced as a madman and a visionary." The road snaked 
its way West, laid by twenty thousand tough Irish and Chi- 
nese laborers guarded by federal troops against Indian raids, 
all under the leadership of General Granville M. Dodge, who 
had been an engineer with Sherman on the march to the sea. 
It was finished, not in seven years, as Train had predicted, 
but in six, when the last, golden, spike was driven in at 
Ogden, Utah. 

Shortly after, Train left the Credit Mobilier or was 
dropped from it. He claimed: "Through my suggestion and 
through my plans and energy . . . this mighty highway 
across the continent . . . was created." He said he had built 
the Union Pacific. He had not, of course. He had helped 
finance it and publicize it. The men who really built the road 
were Congressman Oakes Ames of Massachusetts and 
Thomas Clark Durant, the road's first vice-president. 

Train had long been out of the Credit Mobilier when it 
blew sky high in one of the greatest scandals of the time. The 
New York Sun made known the story in 1872. The stock- 
holders of the government-sponsored Union Pacific had con- 
tracted with the stockholders of the Credit Mobilier to build 

The Man Who Was Thileas Fogg 

the road. But it so happened that the stockholders of the 
Union Pacific were also the stockholders of the Credit 

For every dollar the Credit Mobilier spent in construction 
it charged the Union Pacific and the government two dollars. 
To prevent investigation, Congressman Ames carefully dis- 
tributed free stock in Credit Mobilier to fellow representa- 
tives and senators. This stock paid 625 per cent dividends 
within a year. Before the thievery was fully exposed the fin- 
anciers of the Union Pacific had made themselves almost 
$44,000,000 in profits. The subsequent scandal ruined the rep- 
utations of the Vice-President of the United States and a 
great number of congressmen, and publicly embarrassed the 
entire Republican Party. 

By the time the scandal took place Train had drifted far 
from the world of finance. He had become interested in pol- 
itics and obsessed with a desire for publicity. Most journalists 
who spoke with him, while admitting his brilliance, felt that 
he was misdirecting his abilities. Several thought that 
he was losing his grip. "The Train of ideas," a reporter on 
The Nebraikan remarked, "sometimes lacks the coupling- 

The reporter on The Nebraskan was unusually perceptive. 
As a boy-merchant and young promoter Train had displayed 
remarkable talent. He was intelligent, clever, audacious, en- 
ergetic, and inventive. But he lacked a central drive, a realis- 
tic goal. He was scatterbrained. He did too much too easily 
and too quickly. With concentration and purpose he might 
have made a solid reputation in any one of several professions 
as a financier, an author, or a politician. 

Gradually, over a period of forty years, he descended into 
the most pitiful unreality and eccentricity because he wanted 
only attention. When he could no longer win attention 
through normal accomplishment, he employed every extreme 
stunt that came to mind. He cultivated the art of astonish- 

The Square Pegs 

ment. Instead of honest dissent, born of careful thought and 
conviction, he became contrary for the mere sake of sensa- 

He actively entered politics in 1 869 because he had a Mes- 
siah complex. But he was a Messiah without a message, hav- 
ing merely the forensic equipment and evangelistic fervor to 
communicate nothing. As a politician, he was a half-baked 
thinker, part democrat and part fascist, part genius and part 
fool, never really insane, but surely psychopathic. 

After his Credit Mobilier period he was wealthy. On his 
two-and-a-half acres at Newport he had a villa and a special 
building for bowling and billiards that cost $100,000. He had 
a $50,000 guesthouse for his father-in-law. He had six car- 
riages, and he claimed that it cost him $2,000 a week to live. 
But after he plunged into politics he neglected his business, 
his family, and his home, and lost all three in the continuing 
affair with his ego. 

It was in a Dublin jail one of fifteen he occupied in his 
lifetime, usually for siding with revolutionary causes or as- 
suming the bad debts of others that Train first conceived, 
as he put it, "a feeling of confidence that I might one day be 
President of the United States." 

1872 was a confusing election year, and Train hoped that 
he might benefit by the confusion. Ulysses S. Grant, a shy, 
highly moral man who liked whiskey, horses, cigars (he once 
smoked twenty-four in a day), and low company, was pre- 
sented for re-election by the Republican Party. Grant's well- 
meaning incompetence had permitted a shocking carnival of 
corruption during his first term. Many high-minded Repub- 
licans had had enough of him. They determined to break 
away from the regular party and nominate their own candi- 

These Liberal Republicans met in Cincinnati, wrote a plat- 
form that severely indicted Grant, and then cast about for a 
man who could defeat him. George Francis Train thought he 
was that man. On the second day of the convention he rose 

( 86 ) 

The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

and shouted: "All aboard! Get aboard the express train of 
George Francis Train!" There was a brief snake-dance by his 
admirers, but when the actual balloting began, few delegates 
got aboard. On the sixth ballot, the pink-faced, angular, cru- 
sading editor of the New York Tribune^ Horace Greeley, 
who looked like somebody's grandmother, and whose slogan 
was "Turn the rascals out," was nominated for the presi- 
dency. Train was astounded. He had hoped, even at the elev- 
enth hour, that "the people would see the futility of support- 
ing Greeley, and of placing me at the head of the ticket." 

But Train was not through. If no one would place him on 
an existing ticket, he would create a ticket of his own. And 
so he became the sole candidate of the Citizens' Party. His 
entry into the campaign, however, did not clear the air for 
the voters. Everyone, it seemed, was running for the presi- 
dency that year. When the regular Democratic Party agreed 
to affiliate with the Liberal Republican in support of Greeley, 
a die-hard group of Independent Democrats refused to go 
along. These Democrats nominated Charles O'Conor, a 
prominent New York attorney, as the first Catholic ever to 
run for the presidency. Meanwhile, the Prohibition Party of- 
fered the electorate James Black, of Pennsylvania. And, per- 
haps most startling of all, the Equal Rights Party convened 
in New York City to nominate Victoria Claflin Woodhull for 

Of all the candidates, George Francis Train was the most 
tireless. Resplendent in a blue swallow-tail coat with brass 
buttons, he stumped the nation from coast to coast, delivering 
1,000 speeches that earned him $90,000 in admission fees. "I 
went into the campaign as into a battle," he wrote later. "I 
forced fighting at every point along the line, fiercely assailing 
Grant and his nepotism on the one hand, and Greeley, and 
the spirit of compromise and barter that I felt his nomination 
represented, on the other." Grant ignored Train's broadsides, 
but Greeley was once sufficiently provoked to call him "an 
ass, a lunatic, a charlatan and a mountebank." 

The Square Pegs 

In his campaign oratory Train promised to increase immi- 
gration from Europe, build trade with the Orient, and smash 
corruption. Once, when he denounced a ring of grafters in 
New York, he was asked to name names. He replied: "Hoff- 
man, Tweed, Sweeney, Fisk, and Gould . . . Tweed and 
Sweeney are taxing you from head to foot, while their horses 
are living in palaces ... To the lamp-post! All those in fa- 
vor of hanging Tweed to a lamp-post, say aye!" As a matter 
of fact, Train exposed William Marcy "Boss" Tweed and his 
Tammany Hall gang, who would steal $200,000,000 from 
New York City in six years, long before The New York 
Times and Thomas Nast took credit for the same feat. 

Train's interviews, speeches, and writings during the course 
of the campaign became more and more unrestrained. He 
told one interviewer: "Of course you know that you are 
talking to the next President. I am also the greatest man in 
the world. I can give Buddha, Confucius, Moses, Mohammed, 
and all the rest of them, fifty on the string, and then discount 
them." His election-year literature called him the "man of 
destiny," ready and willing to rule the country with one 
hundred of America's wealthiest men as his advisers, and 
added that he was "an instrument in the hands of some mys- 
terious power, to emancipate the people from the slavery of 
Party and the Fanaticism of ages." An editor of the Washing- 
ton Capital, attending one of his speeches, decided that he 
should have been an actor, reporting: "He double-shuffles 
and stamps on the floor 'till the dust obscures him; he beats 
his breast, clenches his fist, clutches his hair, plays ball with 
the furniture, outhowls the roaring elements. . . . And yet 
he is not happy; no, he wants to be President." 

President he could not be. Millions heard and enjoyed him, 
but did not take him seriously. When the votes were counted, 
U. S. Grant had 3,597,132. Horace Greeley had 2,834,125, 
Charles O'Conor had 29,408, James Black had 5,608, Victoria 
Woodhull had not been permitted to vote even for herself, 


The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

and Train well, as far as the statistics could be trusted, 
Train had no votes at all. 

He was bitter. He voiced his bitterness. "I thought I knew 
something of the people, and felt confident that they would 
prefer a man of independence, who had accomplished some- 
thing for them, to a man who was a mere tool of his party, 
a distributor of patronage to his friends and relatives. . . . 
But I was mistaken. The people, as Barnum has said, love to 
be humbugged." 

It is difficult to think that he expected to win, or that he 
even took his three-year campaign for the Republican nomi- 
nation and then for the presidency seriously. For late in 1870, 
when he was contesting for the nomination, he suddenly in- 
terrupted his campaign to take a trip around the world. True, 
he may have wanted to dramatize his candidacy by a spectac- 
ular feat. Or, as he claimed, he may have wanted to show his 
fellow Americans the value of fast transportation. But most 
likely, he wanted publicity for its own sake. 

And so, at the age of forty-one, almost the age that Verne 
made Phileas Fogg, Train started westward in his race around 
the world to prove that the journey could be done in eighty 
days. Actually, he was away more than eighty days. He 
started from San Francisco early in August and did not return 
until late in December. While his traveling probably took 
eighty days, there was a two-month diversionary detour in 

Train crossed the United States on the new Union Pacific 
he had helped to build. He gave 28 speeches in California, 
netting himself $10,000 and a host of new enemies. A talk he 
gave in San Francisco to industrialists and politicians was typ- 
ical "If I had been the Federal general in command of Cali- 
fornia at the time [of the Civil War]," he said, "I should have 
hanged certain men, some of whom are present." 

On August i, 1870, he boarded the Great Republic for 
Yokohama. When he reached Singapore he learned that Na- 

The Square Pegs 

poleon had been crushed at Sedan and that France was in a 
state of chaos. Nevertheless, he decided to proceed directly 
to France as the quickest route to his transatlantic connec- 
tions in Liverpool. 

After more than two months of travel, he arrived in Mar- 
seilles. No sooner had he settled in his suite at the Hotel du 
Louvre et de la Paix, than delegates of the revolutionary 
Commune called upon him. a We have heard of you and want 
you to join the revolution," they told him. "Six thousand 
people are waiting for you now in the Opera House." 

Train had never, previously, shown interest in the Inter- 
national. But there were people waiting to see and hear him. 
There was the promise of excitement and publicity. It was in- 
ducement enough. He hurried to the jammed Alhambra Op- 
era House, where the audience chanted his name and the 
glory of the uprising. "When the shouting ceased," he re- 
called in his autobiography, "I told the people that I was in 
Marseilles on a trip around the world, but as they had called 
upon me to take part in their movement, I should be glad to 
repay, in my own behalf, a small portion of the enormous 
debt of gratitude that my country owed to France for La- 
fayette. . . ." 

In the next weeks Train took over completely. He spoke 
against the Prussians. He spoke against Leon Gambetta's 
Third Republic. He spoke on the average of seven times daily 
for twenty-three consecutive days. He led a march on the 
Marseilles military fortifications and helped run up the flag of 
the Red Republic. And finally, to give the Commune an ex- 
perienced military leader, he summoned General Gustave 
Paul Cluseret from his Swiss exile. Cluseret had experience 
enough. He had fought for the North in the American Civil 
War, under General McClellan, and taken an active part in 
the Fenian Insurrection in Ireland. Now, handsome in a gold- 
laced uniform that Train purchased for him, he rushed off to 
the barricades in Paris. There, it might be added, he was ar- 


The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

rested by the Commune itself for treason, eventually saved 
by government troops, and returned to Switzerland. 

Meanwhile, Train remained in Marseilles, where he almost 
lost his life. One morning, observing soldiers marching be- 
neath his hotel balcony, he mistook them for comrades of the 
Commune and shouted: "Vive la Commune!" Too late, 
Train realized they were government troops. They halted. 
Five riflemen stepped forward, knelt, and took aim at Train. 
Quickly Train snatched the flags of France and the United 
States off the balcony, draped them about his body, and 
shouted: "Fire, fire, you miserable cowards! Fire upon the 
flags of France and America wrapped around the body of an 
American citizen if you have the courage!" The firing 
squad was ordered back into line, and the troops moved on. 

Shortly after, Train left Marseilles. He did not get far. In 
Lyons he was arrested for revolutionary activity and thrown 
into jail. He smuggled a note out to his frantic secretary, 
George P. Bemis, which read: "Am in St. Joseph Prison and 
secretly incarcerated." Bemis, through the intervention of 
Alexandre Dumas, visited Train, then cabled President Grant, 
the New York Sun, and the London Times for help. After 
thirteen days in prison, during which he lost thirty pounds, 
Train was released and taken to Tours. 

In the palace of the prefecture at Tours, he was ushered 
into the presence of the government leader, Leon Ganibetta, 
who was seated at his desk. Gambetta did not stir. Train 
stood, waiting. "He made not the slightest signs of being 
aware that I was present. He did not even turn his face to- 
ward me. I did not learn until afterward that the distinguished 
Italian-Frenchman had one glass eye, and could see me just as 
well at an angle as he could full-face." 

Huffily Train asked to be seated. Gambetta motioned him 
to a seat. Train, as audacious as ever, immediately changed his 
political allegiance. "Monsieur Gambetta," he began, "you 
are the head of France, and I intend to be President of the 

(91 ) 

The Square Pegs 

United States. You can assist me, and I can assist you. . . . 
Send me to America, and I can help you get munitions of 
war, and win over the sympathy and assistance of the Ameri- 

Gambetta ignored this. He had something else on his mind. 
"You sent Cluseret to Paris," he said, "and bought him a uni- 
form for three hundred francs." 

u You are only fairly well informed, Monsieur Gambetta. 
I paid three hundred and fifty francs for the uniform." 

"Cluseret is a scoundrel." 

"The Communards call you that." 

The interview was over. Train was expelled from France. 
He resumed his journey around the world, chartering a spe- 
cial train to the Channel, and catching the ship Abyssinia in 
Liverpool for New York. Back home again, he crowed to the 
press that he had made the journey in eighty days. No one 
ever really counted the days. The record was accepted and 
publicized, and soon enough Phileas Fogg was born. 

Tram's record did not last two decades. In November 1889 
the diminutive, intense sob-sister for the New York World, 
Nellie Ely, who had feigned insanity to expose conditions on 
Blackwell's Island and had gone down in a diving bell and up 
in a balloon to obtain feature material, left New York on a 
24,899-mile trip around the globe. Exactly seventy-two days, 
six hours, and eleven minutes later she reached New York on 
a special train from San Francisco, while ten guns saluted her 
from the Battery and her paper's headline shrieked: "Father 
Time Outdone!" Race horses, babies, songs, and games were 
named after Nellie Ely, who remained a legendary figure un- 
til her death in 1922. 

But all the vast publicity accorded her irked George 
Francis Train. An upstart of a girl in ghillie cap and plaid 
ulster had destroyed one of his few remaining claims to fame. 
He felt that he must preserve his reputation as a traveler. At 
once, he got in touch with the New York World and re- 
quested sponsorship of a new trip around the globe. The 

(9* ) 

The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

World was not interested in breaking its own record. Train 
then wired a friend in Washington, the editor of the Tacoma 
EveningLedger, asking him to arrange $1,000 worth of lecture 
engagements. The editor of the Ledger, remembering that 
Train had selected the site on which Tacoma was built ("There 
is your terminus/' he had once told officers of the Northern 
Pacific) , and realizing the trip might put the community into 
print, arranged $4,200 worth of lectures. 

Train was sixty-one years old when he left Tacoma by 
steamer for Vancouver. Over five hundred persons saw him 
off for Japan. The sixteen-day passage was rocky. Train was 
unaffected, but reported that a fellow passenger, Lafcadio 
Hearn, was seasick all the way. The trip was filled with small 
adventures. He was detained in Japan for lack of a passport. 
"At Nagasaki, the Consul told me that no foreigner could get 
a passport in less than three days. I said I'd get one in less 
than three seconds or see the Mikado or burst the empire. I 
went to Tokyo and got my passport in 30 minutes." A cy- 
clone cost him thirty hours en route to Singapore. At Calais 
he faced another obstacle. "I found that there was no boat I 
could catch. I telegraphed to Dover for a special boat and was 
told I could have one for forty pounds. All right. The boat 
came, but there were many people who desired to come, so 
they charged the others iys. 6d. a head and charged me noth- 
ing; forty pounds saved." In New York he was stalled thirty- 
six hours trying to obtain space on a train. At last he chartered 
a special Pullman for $1,500 and sped west. When he was de- 
layed in Portland another five hours through mismanagement, 
he refused to attend a banquet in his honor. He went directly 
to Tacoma, returning to his starting point after sixty-seven 
days, twelve hours, and two minutes of travel. He had set- 
tled his score with Nellie Ely. 

But still he was not through. Two years later, when he was 
offered an opportunity to improve upon his own record, he 
could not resist. A new community in Washington, Whatcom, 
located on Puget Sound, wanted to advertise itself and offered 

(93 ) 

The Square Pegs 

to finance Train around the world. He made the journey, 
without mishap or delay, in sixty days flat. It was his last ad- 
venture as Phileas Fogg. 

During both of these trips, Train was, in the eyes of the 
law, a lunatic. The chain of events that led to this absurd des- 
ignation began one day in November 1872. Train had been 
addressing a group in Wall Street on his candidacy for presi- 
dent when a friend handed him a newspaper that announced 
the arrest of Victoria Woodhull. It appeared that Mrs. Wood- 
hull, the very same woman who was his rival for the presi- 
dency, and her attractive sister, Tennessee Claflin, had been 
jailed for obscenity (for their exposure of Henry Ward 
Beecher's love life) at the instigation of the puritanical dry- 
goods salesman, Anthony Comstock. At once Train deter- 
mined to play Don Quixote "like a true errant knight, he 
flew to our side as a champion," Mrs. Woodhull said and 
like Cervantes's errant knight, Train emerged from the joust 
with the label of lunacy. 

Train brought out a new edition of a paper he had once 
published in Omaha, The Train Ligue, and presented, under 
sensational headlines, three columns of quotations from the 
Holy Bible relating to sexual intercourse. "Every verse I used 
was worse than anything published by these women," he 
stated. He was inviting arrest, and he did not have to wait 
long. New York detectives, spurred on by Comstock, found 
him in his apartment and hustled him off to the Tombs. 

Train was deposited in a cubicle off the second tier, a sec- 
tion of the Tombs known as Murderers' Row. Among his 
fellow inmates, he recorded later, was "the famous Sharkey, 
who might have got into worse trouble than any of us, but 
who escaped through the pluck and ingenuity of Maggie 
Jordan." William J. Sharkey, who helped elect Train the 
president of Murderers' Row, was indeed in worse trouble 
than the others. He was under sentence of hanging for hav- 
ing lulled a debtor named Dunn with a derringer. But for- 
tunately for Sharkey, the Tombs was sloppily managed. Just 


The Man Who Was fhileas Fogg 

as Train was permitted to wear a sealskin overcoat and re- 
ceive reporters, so Sharkey was allowed to have daily visitors 
in his cell, which was furnished with walnut table, chaise 
longue, canary, and carpeting. His most regular visitor was 
his mistress, an accomplished pickpocket named Maggie Jor- 
dan. One day she brought Sharkey a green veil, woolen dress, 
black cloak, high-heeled shoes, and a pilfered visitor's pass. 
He walked out in this disguise and retired to Cuba for the 
rest of his days. 

Train needed no Maggie Jordan to assist his escape. The 
government realized it had a tiger by the tail. The obscenity 
charge was weak and the government was eager to forget it. 
Police were instructed to leave Train's cell door open, lose 
him in the halls, make deals with him, anything to get rid of 
him. Train would not budge. He was in the Tombs, and there 
he would sit until he was properly tried. 

After fourteen weeks, the government decided to try him 
on the grounds of insanity. Three doctors examined him. One 
declared him sane; the other two thought him obsessed on 
several subjects. All agreed that he was "of unsound rnind, 
though harmless." A jury concluded that he was quite sane. 
Finally the government decided to try him on the charge of 
obscenity. But his lawyer, perhaps at the advice of Train's 
family, pleaded insanity. Hastily, the judge instructed the 
jury to bring in the verdict "Not guilty on the ground of in- 
sanity." Enraged, Train leaped to his feet and roared at the 
judge: "I protest against this whole proceeding. I have been 
four months in jail, and I have had no trial for the offense 
with which I am charged. Your Honor, I move your im- 
peachment in the name of the people!" The judge threatened 
to pack him off to the State Lunatic Asylum in Utica, then 
thought better of it and released him as "a lunatic by judicial 

Thereafter, he began to call himself The Great American 
Crank and played the role to the hilt. Years before, in Omaha, 
suffering some fancied insult from the manager of the Hern- 

(95 ) 

The Square Pegs 

don House, he had marched out of a banquet vowing to get 
even. Within a few hours, he had purchased an empty lot 
across the street for $5,000, sketched the crude plan of a new 
and better hotel on the back of an envelope, and offered a 
contractor $1,000 a day if he would deliver the completed 
building in sixty days. When Train returned from a vacation 
sixty days later, the three-story, izo-room Cozzen's Hotel, 
constructed at a cost of $60,000, was standing, ready for busi- 

Similar impulses had occurred to him from time to time in 
his early years. But in the last two decades of his life they 
took hold of him completely. When he heard that the mam- 
moth Columbian Exposition of 1893 was doing poorly in 
Chicago, he rushed off to save it. The Midway, under Edi- 
son's new electric bulbs, had its share of oddities. Swami 
Vivekananda, from India; Ida Lewis, a lighthouse keeper who 
had rescued twenty-two persons; Comanche, a horse that had 
been the only survivor of Custer's Last Stand; Susan B. An- 
thony, Lillian Russell, and Snapper Garrison were all on dis- 
play. But none created more of a stir than George Francis 
Train as he led a grand march up the Midway with a Da- 
homey belle from the African village on his arm. 

Every unorthodoxy attracted Train. He became a vegetar- 
ian. After all, had not Plato, Shelley, Voltaire, Schopenhauer, 
and Thoreau been vegetarians? He dined on cereals, boiled 
rice, and fresh fruits, and believed that if he ate enough pea- 
nuts he would live to be 150. As he explained: "Having eaten 
no meat, eggs, fish, oysters, poultry, or animal food of any 
kind for many months, all the ancient argument, antagonism, 
ferocity of my nature has died out, and yet I am in savage 
health and terrible mental vigor." 

In public he would not shake hands with friends. Instead, 
he shook hands with himself, as he had once seen the Chinese 
do. Nor would he communicate with acquaintances except 
by writing on a pad. These were means, he said, of storing 
up his psychic force. He invented a new calendar, based on 

The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

the date of his birth and his age, and he announced he was 
running for Dictator of the United States. 

Toward the end he was alone and he was poor. His wife, 
supported by a trust fund he had left her, died in 1879. His 
villa was long gone. And he had lost his Omaha properties 
through foreclosure, though he maintained that they had been 
taken from him illegally and that he would still be worth 
$10,000,000 when he chose to become sane. 

He supported himself by writing and speaking. His old 
friend Darius Ogden Mills had built the first of a chain of 
low-cost hostelries, the Mills Hotel No. i, in New York City. 
Train rented a tiny room in the hotel, furnished with bed, 
chair, dresser, and several crates crammed with his papers. 
His room cost him twenty cents a night, his dinners fifteen 
cents each, and he claimed that he needed no more than three 
dollars a week to live. In this room he did his writing. He 
sold political articles, written in blue and red pencil, to news- 
papers. He published Train's Penny Magazine, a weekly 
which sold for two cents, and in its pages inveighed against 
religion, mail-order houses, the Spanish- American War. And, 
at the request of D. Appleton and Company, he dictated, 
working an hour and a quarter a day for twenty-eight days, 
his autobiography y My Life in Many States and in Foreign 
Lands. In this volume he laid claim to a prodigious inventive- 
ness. He insisted that he had suggested, or conceived, the 
perforation of postage stamps, erasers on lead pencils, steps 
on carriages, and the canning of salmon. He tried, also, to ex- 
plain his role as the original Phileas Fogg. "I have lived fast," 
he wrote. "I have ever been an advocate of speed. I was born 
into a slow world, and I wished to oil the wheels and gear, 
so that the machine would spin faster and, withal, to better 

But to the very end his real livelihood came from address- 
ing audiences in person rather than writing for them. Though 
his fee was reduced to $100 a performance, he appeared reg- 
ularly in Boston, Omaha, Chicago, and San Francisco. He still 

(97 ) 

The Square Pegs 

made an impressive figure on the platform, with his receding 
white hair grown long, his flowing mustache, his handsome, 
dark face. Often he affected a curious costume for his lec- 
tures, wearing a military coat, a communist red sash, a string 
of Chinese coins, and carrying a green umbrella. In his lec- 
tures he continued to provoke his listeners. At the Boston 
Music Hall he called Boston "a backwoods town" and Har- 
vard a school for incompetent football players. But more of- 
ten he expounded his creed. "My religion is my conscience, 
my belief is the brotherhood of man. Everything is worth 
having, nothing is worth worrying over; that philosophy is a 
sure cure for all diseases." 

During his speaking tours Train met and conversed with 
all sorts of weird personalities, some of whose eccentricities 
made him seem staid by comparison. The most colorful of 
these cornered Train in his Occidental Hotel room, in San 
Francisco when he was lecturing on the Alabama contro- 
versy. England had built the cruiser Alabama for the Con- 
federacy, and the Alabama had destroyed eighty Union 
merchantmen and one warship before it was finally sunk off 
Cherbourg. More than three years before, an international 
tribunal had met to find England guilty of a "breach of neu- 
trality" in building, equipping, and permitting the escape of 
the Alabama. The tribunal had forced England to pay $15,- 
500,000 in gold in damages for depredations committed by 
this vessel and two others against Union shipping. Instead of 
the fine, Train was demanding the invasion of Canada and the 
seizure of British Columbia as more fitting reparations. 

He had finished just such a lecture in San Francisco when 
he was visited by Joshua Norton, self-proclaimed Emperor 
of the United States and Protector of Mexico. Norton I, at- 
tired in his blue military coat topped with gold epaulets, de- 
manded that Train keep hands off British Columbia. Train 
would not listen. Then Norton changed his tactics. He said 
that if Train persisted with the invasion, he would guarantee 
to deliver peaceably Vancouver Island for $1,200. 

(98 ) 

The Man Who Was Phileas Fogg 

It was an interview that might have been invented by 
Lewis Carroll. In the end, Train threw Norton out, and His 
Highness published a notice in the San Frmcisco Herald for- 
ever banning Train from his Empire. 

As the lecture tours became more infrequent, Train spent 
most of his days on a bench in Madison Square, sunning him- 
self, feeding squirrels and pigeons, and playing with the 
youngsters who romped on the grass. He loved children, told 
them stories, bought them sweets, and took them to circuses. 
He told them, as he had told his own offspring: 'Treat all 
with respect, especially the poor. Be careful to injure no one's 
feelings by unkind remarks. Never tell tales, make faces, call 
names, ridicule the lame, mimic the unfortunate, or be cruel 
to insects, birds, or animals." And when his book was done, 
the year before his death, he dedicated it to the little people 
who were his last friends and who believed in him "To the 
children, and to the children's children, in this and in all lands, 
who love and believe in me, because they know I love and 
believe in them." 

He was seventy-five years old when he died of Bright's dis- 
ease on the night of January 19, 1904, in New York City. 
For two days hundreds of people crowded into the funeral 
parlor for a last glimpse of him. Most of them were little peo- 
ple carrying flowers. 

Before his burial in Brooklyn, his physician, Dr. Carlton 
Simon, in collaboration with an alienist, Dr. Edward C. 
Spitzka, removed his brain for study. They found it was a 
remarkably heavy brain. It weighed 1,525 grains or 53.8 
ounces. It was found to rank twenty-sixth among the brains 
of 107 famous persons. George Francis Train would have 
been pleased beyond measure to know that it was heavier, 
even, than the brain of Daniel Webster. 



The Free Lover 
Who Ran for President 

"/ advocate Free Love in its highest, purest sense, 
as the only cure for the immorality, the deep 
damnation by which men corrupt and disfigure 
God's most holy institution of sexual relations" 


When that greatest of Athenian orators, Demosthenes, 
after failing to lead his fellow Greeks in a successful 
revolt against the Macedonians, fled to a temple on the isle of 
Calauria and there took his life by biting off a portion of a 
poisoned pen, he could hardly have imagined how soon and 
for what purpose he would return to the earth he had so re- 
luctantly left. Yet, a little more than two thousand years 
later, in the summer of 1868, in the unlikely city of Pitts- 
burgh, Pennsylvania, Demosthenes returned to inspire an- 
other orator to undertake a revolt against puritanical con- 
vention which would rock America for a decade and more. 
The hostess to Demosthenes' resurrection was an attractive, 
aggressive, outrageous young lady named Victoria Claflin 
Woodhull. For some years previous, Mrs. Woodhull, who 
had been raised on mesmerism and had been much addicted 
to trances, had consorted with an anonymous apparition clad 
in a Greek tunic. This friendly spirit-creature materialized 
frequently and made extravagant promises to Mrs. Woodhull 
of future wealth and power. He answered all her questions, 
except one. He would not reveal his identity. 

The Free Lover Who Ran -for President 

But in Pittsburgh, where Mrs. Woodhull, her lively sister, 
and her zany family were earning a meager livelihood out of 
spiritualism, magnetic healing, cancer cures, and prostitution, 
the apparition in the Greek tunic appeared once more and at 
last revealed his identity. He traced his name, Mrs. Woodhull 
later related, on a marble parlor-table, and its eerie brightness 
illuminated the entire gloomy room. His name was Demos- 
thenes. And, -having overcome this final formality, the old 
Attic orator imparted to Mrs. Woodhull a crucial instruction 
that was to change her life. He ordered her to travel to a 
house at 1 7 Great Jones Street, New York City, and enter it, 
and occupy it, and know that thereafter only good and great 
events would befall her. 

Apparently, and not unexpectedly, Demosthenes was suf- 
ficiently persuasive to send Mrs. Woodhull scurrying to the 
house on Great Jones Street near Broadway, in New York 
City. She entered it, found it furnished and to let, and ex- 
plored it. In the library all was intact except one book lying 
loose on a table. Curiously she picked up the book, glanced 
at the title, and what she saw, she admitted, was "blood- 
chilling." The book was entitled Orations of Demosthenes. 
Mrs. Woodhull promptly rented the house, sent for her rela- 
tives, and prepared to make her mark. 

Whether or not her next step was stimulated by one more 
visitation from the ether world is not known. More likely, 
Mrs. Woodhull took her immediate future into her own 
hands. Her Greek vision had promised her wealth and power. 
She was hardheaded enough to know that these she might ob- 
tain only through use of her natural advantages, which in- 
cluded sexual appeal, mystical experience, and unlimited au- 
dacity. At thirty Victoria Woodhull was a handsome, clever, 
brash woman, who looked chic and exciting in shirts and in 
shapely checkered dresses cut daringly short (to the calves). 
Samuel Gompers, first president of the American Federation 
of Labor, remembered her as "a slight, sparkling little crea- 
ture, with expressive brown eyes and short brown hair." Her 

The Square Pegs 

sister, Tennessee Celeste Claflin, a gay, somewhat coarse girl 
aged twenty-two, was even more beautiful, less intelligent, 
and certainly less inhibited. 

In her own person, and in that of her younger sister, Vic- 
toria Woodhull saw sufficient assets for the founding of a for- 
tune and a national reputation. The question was: where to 
begin? The answer came immediately: begin at the top. For 
in New York in 1868 the one person at the top was Commo- 
dore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the richest man in the United 
States, whose principal interests in his seventy-fourth year 
were females of sexual appeal who were not too swift of foot 
and anyone else of mystical experience who would give him 
assurance of health and longevity. To reach him required 
only unlimited audacity. 

Undoubtedly, the idea of meeting the bluff, bewhiskered 
old Commodore originated in Mrs. Woodhull's fertile brain. 
She decided to effect the introduction through her male par- 
ent, Buckman Claflin, who, though a disreputable, one-eyed 
monster, was still her father and would lend the entire enter- 
prise an air of respectability. Thus, Mrs. Woodhull and her 
hoydenish sister were chastely escorted to the mansion in 
Washington Place and announced as famous miracle-healers 
from the Midwest. 

It is not surprising that they were promptly admitted. 
Commodore Vanderbilt was an ailing man who had become 
impatient with conventional medicine and was now employ- 
ing the services of a Staten Island seer and an electrical wiz- 
ard to give him hope and comfort. He was ready to listen to 
almost anyone. Mrs. Woodhull quickly explained that she was 
a successful medium, and that her sister Tennie was a mag- 
netic healer who gave patients strength through physical con- 
tact. This last, as well as the provocative appearance of his 
fair guests, convinced the blasphemous old Commodore that 
he must put himself in their hands. 

However, let it be remarked at once that Commodore 
Vanderbilt was neither an easy nor a pliable patient. He was 

( 102 ) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

tough, he was ruthless, and he was nobody's fool. He had 
pyramided possession of a single sailboat, purchased when he 
was sixteen, to the ownership of a hundred steamers servicing 
the East Coast and to the final control of the New York Cen- 
tral Railroad. Through instigating price wars, indulging in 
stock-market trickery, and bribing courts and legislatures he 
had accumulated $100,000,000 in his prime, and almost dou- 
bled the sum before his death. "Law?" he once bellowed. 
"What do I care about law? Hain't I got the power?'' 

Obviously such a man would not be easy to please. Yet, 
by some miracle of understanding, Victoria Woodhull re- 
duced this blustering giant to the position of intimate friend 
and patron. When she realized his need for sex indeed, few 
housemaids escaped his lust she fed him the willing and vig- 
orous Tennessee. The magnetic treatments, whereby Ten- 
nessee laid her hands on the Commodore's hands and passed 
electrical energy from her body into his, proceeded magnifi- 
cently. Tennessee was soon in his bed, installed as his mistress. 
He called her his "little sparrow" and she called him "old 

A year and a half of Tennessee's special brand of magnetic 
healing softened the Commodore for Victoria Woodhull's 
special purposes. The idea of how she might best use the 
Commodore came to Mrs. Woodhull from her lover of four 
years, a bemused Civil War veteran and fellow spiritualist 
named Colonel James H. Blood. It was the astute Blood who 
realized at once that the Commodore might aid his protegees 
in that art at which he was past master the art of making 
money by speculation. The Commodore possessed great stock 
holdings, manipulated shares by the thousands, dominated 
Wall Street as no other man did. Might he not be of greatest 
value in support of a brokerage firm? 

On January 20, 1870, the New York Herald announced, 
incredulously, the opening of a new brokerage house 
Woodhull, Claflin and Company operated solely by two 
pretty and fashionable lady partners. Their headquarters, the 

( 103 ) 

The Square Pegs 

newspaper continued, were in parlors 25 and 26 of the Hoff- 
man House. Parlor 25 was furnished with reception chairs 
and piano, and decorated with oil paintings and a photograph 
of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, beside which hung a 
framed inscription reading, significantly: "Simply to Thy 
cross I cling." To its description the Herald added a com- 
ment: "The notion prevails among the lame ducks and old 
foxes of Wall Street that Vanderbilt, the oldest fox of them 
all, is at the bottom of the experiment." 

If this announcement created a furor, it was as nothing 
compared to the excitement generated among investors and 
members of the exchange when Victoria Woodhull and her 
sister invaded Wall Street itself. For soon enough Hoffman 
House was found too confining, and the ladies opened new 
business quarters at 44 Broad Street. Seven thousand visitors, 
fascinated by the oddity and by the silent partnership of 
Vanderbilt, flocked to their offices in the first week. When 
the traffic did not abate, the proprietors were obliged to post 
a notice in their vestibule reading: "All gentlemen will state 
their business and then retire at once." Gentlemen were ad- 
mitted by a uniformed doorman to a front office furnished 
with leather sofas and walnut desks, which was separated by 
a glass-and-wood partition from a rear cubicle reserved for 
female customers. Mrs. Woodhull and her sister, fresh 
roses in their hair and gold pens cocked jauntily on their ears, 
were cordial to legitimate customers, but evasive with the 
press. They were in business for themselves, they said. They 
would not discuss their patron. "Commodore Vanderbilt is 
my friend," said Tennessee, "but I will not say anything more 
concerning that matter." The press was, for the most part, 
generous in its praise, and headlines referred to the sisters as 
the "Lady Brokers," the "Queens of Finance," the "Bewitch- 
ing Brokers," the "Vanderbilt Protegees." Banks and financial 
firms respectfully came calling, and were impressed, and the 
new business boomed. 

In three years, by Victoria Woodhull's public estimate, the 

( 104 ) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

new brokerage house "made seven hundred thousand dol- 
lars." Where did these huge profits come from? One historian 
has been unkind enough to remark that "it is to be suspected 
they sold much more than railroad shares." But even the 
Everleigh sisters of Chicago, more expert at handling fleshly 
commodities, had never been able thus to make almost three 
quarters of a million dollars profit in three years. It may be 
said with some certainty that the great bulk of the profits 
earned by Woodhull, Claflin and Company came not from 
sex, but from brains. And the brains belonged to Commodore 
Vanderbilt. For during those exciting financial years he con- 
stantly provided the eager sisters with inside market informa- 
tion. In 1857 ^e Commodore, having disposed of his steam- 
ships, became a director, and later president, of the New York 
and Harlem Railroad. The stock in this line, which went from 
central Manhattan to Albany, the Commodore purchased at 
$9 a share. By bribing the City Council to extend the line, 
then by outwitting Daniel Drew, who was selling short, the 
Commodore sent the stock rocketing up to $179 a share. Mrs. 
Woodhull, lady broker, was his spiritual solace during this 
coup, and her own profits in the Harlem were almost half 
a million dollars. 

When the Commodore determined to acquire control of 
the Erie Railroad, which ran from New York to Chicago and 
competed with his own New York Central, he took Mrs. 
Woodhull along for the ride. It was a rocky road. Gould and 
Fisk reached the directors of the Erie first, had them issue 
$10,000,000 worth of bonds, had these converted into 50,000 
shares of stock, and dumped the lot on the market. The Com- 
modore bought and bought, while Fisk joyfully chortled: 
"We'll give the old hog all he can hold if this printing press 
holds out." When the Commodore learned that he had been 
tricked, he forced Gould and Fisk to make the stocks good 
and to buy back $5,000,000 worth of them. 

Finally, on that September day in 1869 known as Black 
Friday, Mrs. Woodhull was able to profit once more with the 

( 105 ) 

The Square Pegs 

Commodore's assistance. Gould, after encouraging President 
Grant to keep the nation's large gold-reserve locked up in 
Treasury vaults, bought $47,000,000 worth of free gold and 
drove its price up from the $132 required in greenbacks to 
purchase $100 in gold to $150 and to $162.50. The Exchange 
was in a panic. Angrily Grant released $4,000,000 in govern- 
ment gold, and Wall Street had its Black Friday as the price 
of gold plummeted down to $135. On that terrible day, the 
Commodore handed out loans of a million dollars to help 
settle the market. Through his advice, Mrs. Woodhull had 
sold at $160, and at enormous profit, before the final panic 
took place. 

As time passed, the Commodore was being subtly, gently 
drawn away from the influence of Victoria Woodhull by his 
second wife, Frank C. Vanderbilt, a tall, dignified, religious 
Alabama girl. She barred entrance to all spiritualists, and sur- 
rounded her sickly husband with orthodox physicians and a 
Baptist pastor. Mrs. Woodhull did not mind. She already had 
what she wanted from the Commodore. She had wealth. 
Now she went after that which she desired even more 

On April 2, 1870, in the pages of the New York Herald, 
she made a proclamation that amazed the metropolis and 
would soon enough make her a national figure. "While oth- 
ers argued the equality of woman with man," she declared, 
"I proved it by successfully engaging in business. ... I 
therefore claim the right to speak for the unenfranchised 
women of the country, and believing as I do that the prej- 
udices which still exist in the popular mind against women in 
public life will soon disappear, I now announce myself as 
candidate for the Presidency." 

It is unlikely that there ever existed, before the advent of 
Victoria Claflin Woodhull, a presidential candidate with a 
background so unstable, chaotic, and scandalous. She was 
born September 23, 1838, in the squalor of the frontier town 

( 106 ) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

of Homer, Ohio. She was the seventh of ten children, and she 
was named Victoria in honor of Great Britain's new queen. 
Her father, Reuben Buckman Claflin, was an uncouth con- 
niver who earned a poor living as a surveyor and a postmas- 
ter. Her mother, Roxanna, was a strange, martial creature, 
probably of German-Jewish descent, probably conceived out 
of wedlock by a governor of Pennsylvania. Long years later, 
Victoria told the Philadelphia Press that she was raised "in a 
picturesque cottage, white painted and high peaked, with a 
porch running round it and a flower garden in front." She 
was raised in a broken-down shack on an unkempt hill, and 
every room of the shack from basement to parlor was filled 
with beds for the squalling children and relatives. 

Victoria's mother, who believed in fortunetelling and the 
spirit world, conducted her unruly household after the pre- 
cepts of that Austrian mystic, Friedrich Mesmer, who 
preached that human cures could be accomplished by occult 
force. Mrs. Claflin preferred Mesmer to the local physician, 
and three of her children died in their infancy. When Vic- 
toria was three years old, a housekeeper also died. Victoria 
saw her lofted on high by several muscular angels, and 
promptly swooned. Thereafter she was in constant touch 
with supernatural beings. Angels were her only friends, ex- 
cepting the visions of two sisters who had died in childhood 
and with whom she continued to play. "She would talk to 
them," a friend reported, "as a girl tattles to her dolls." By 
her eleventh year she had had only three years of formal edu- 
cation. Her teachers found her uncommonly intelligent. Be- 
fore she could continue her learning, a painful episode forced 
her abruptly to leave school and Homer, Ohio. 

Buckman Claflin, a man who ordinarily had little interest 
in his possessions, suddenly had a change of heart one day in 
1849. He took out insurance on his wooden grist-mill. As he 
had hardly funds to feed his family, and since the mill lay 
rotting of disuse, the precaution seemed oddly extravagant. 
One week later, when he was on a business trip ten miles 

( 107 ) 

The Square Pegs 

away, the grist mill went up in flames. Claflin returned to col- 
lect his insurance. He was met not by an agent bearing the 
benefits of his premium, but by a vigilante committee of lead- 
ing citizens. He found himself accused of arson and fraud. 
He was given the quick choice of the hemp or exile. Within 
the hour he departed for Pennsylvania. In the week follow- 
ing, the town raised money for the rest of the family and sent 
them packing. 

Thus, necessity forced Roxanna Claflin, and Victoria and 
the rest of the hungry clan, to call upon their resources of 
invention. They formed a medicine show and sold a com- 
plexion oil made of vegetable juice. In the community of 
Mount Gilead, Ohio, where they were evicted from their 
first boardinghouse because Victoria evoked spirit music, 
they prospered briefly. And there, in 1853, when she was six- 
teen years of age, Victoria married Dr. Canning Woodhull. 

She had met him two years earlier, at a Fourth of July 
picnic, and had seen him more or less steadily thereafter. He 
has been referred to as a "young dandy" and a "gay rake" 
and a "brilliant fop" who treated Victoria "abominably." 
Most latter-day judgments have been derived from a biased 
biography of Victoria written by Theodore Tilton after he 
had become her lover. Tilton declared that Victoria had been 
forced into the marriage by her parents. "Her captor, once 
possessed of his treasure, ceased to value it. On the third night 
after taking his child wife to his lodgings, he broke her heart 
by remaining away all night at a house of ill-repute. Then for 
the first time, she learned to her dismay that he was habitually 
unchaste, and given to long fits of intoxication." 

As a matter of fact, Dr. Woodhull was anything but the 
cloven-footed devil depicted by the prejudiced Tilton. He 
came from a respectable Rochester, New York, family. He 
had been well educated in Boston. He had planned to acquire 
great riches during the gold rush to California, but had fallen 
ill in Ohio, and had remained there to resume his practice of 
medicine. When the Claflins rode into Mount Gilead he was 

( 108 ) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

a bachelor who dreamed of a peaceful home and a large fam- 
ily. He thought Victoria would help him fulfill that dream, 
but he miscalculated the character of his mate, and the mis- 
take ruined his life. The problem in Dr. Woodhull's eleven 
years of discordant marriage was that he had bargained for a 
wife and had gotten a self-absorbed St. Joan who, like the 
Maid, heard voices and had a destiny (inspired by excessive 
devotion to the writings of George Sand) higher than that 
of the kitchen. Nevertheless, the restless and ambitious Vic- 
toria spent sufficient time with Dr. Woodhull to bear him 
two children a boy, Byron, who lost his wits when he stum- 
bled out of a second-story window, and a girl, Zulu Maud, 
who was to be the comfort of Victoria's later years. 

Soon after her marriage Victoria decided that Ohio re- 
stricted her natural abilities. She induced her befuddled hus- 
band to abandon his practice and take her to California. 
There, through the recommendation of an actress named 
Anna Cogswell, she obtained a small role in a stage comedy 
entitled Neiv York by Gas Light. This play led to others. 
But Victoria's progress was slow, and soon enough she real- 
ized that her future lay in a different form of entertainment. 
For in the East two other performers, Margaret and Kather- 
ine Fox, of Hydesville, New York, had attained a meteoric 
rise without ever once appearing in grease paint. 

The Fox sisters had heard weird rappings at night "as 
though someone was knocking on the floor and moving 
chairs." Addressing overflow audiences that included such 
reputable personages as Horace Greeley, James Fenimore 
Cooper, and William Cullen Bryant, the sisters were inter- 
preting the rappings as communications from the spirit world. 
Though a conclave of conservative medical men in Buffalo 
announced that the so-called rappings were created by the 
sisters themselves by cracking their knee and ankle joints, 
lay audiences refused to be so easily disillusioned. Seances 
became the rage, and accomplished mediums were much in 
demand. In California this need finally reached the ears of 

( 109 ) 

The Square Pegs 

Victoria Woodhull, who had long before communed with 
spirits for mere pleasure, but who now determined- to forego 
her amateur status for an opportunity to share the large sums 
being offered to expert spiritualists. 

Victoria, trailed by her sodden husband, caught up with 
her family in Cincinnati, where they were treating the gul- 
lible with a new cancer cure. When Victoria explained her 
plan the entire family was in agreement. A house was rented. 
A sign was posted, reading: "Tennessee Claflin, and Victoria 
Woodhull, Clairvoyants." The sisters gave noisy seances, at 
a dollar a head, and even attracted so famous a client as 
Jesse R. Grant, the father of Ulysses S. Grant. To the 
conjuring up of good spirits, the ladies added fortunetelling 
and magnetic healing. Their youth and attractiveness brought 
in a preponderance of male customers, who were prepared 
to pay far more for closer communion with their mediums. 
Apparently Victoria and Tennessee were not above practic- 
ing prostitution. The combination of soothsayer and whore 
might have enriched Victoria enormously had not Tennessee 
crudely spoiled the game. When Tennessee began to employ 
for the purposes of blackmail information gained as seer and 
strumpet, she was sued. 

The Woodhulls and the Claflins left Cincinnati in great 
haste, and began a spiritualistic tour of Illinois, Kansas, and 
Missouri. In St. Louis, Victoria found true love. She had 
been invited to appear before the local Spiritualist Society 
to defend her doctrines against the attack of a clergyman. 
As spiritualism, which already had from three to four million 
followers in the United States, had somehow attracted per- 
sons interested in free love, feminine emancipation, and social 
reform, it was not surprising that Colonel James Harvey 
Blood was also in the audience. Though ostensibly Blood was 
covering the debate for the St. Louis Times, the real motive 
for his attendance was his interest in socialism and advanced 
social theory. Blood, a handsome veteran of the Civil War 
who had been wounded five times, was married and the 

( no) 

The Free Lover Who "Ran -for President 

father of two children. Disenchanted by his wife's material- 
ism, by his job, and by the avaricious men it brought him in 
contact with, he sought comfort in a private vision of 
Utopia. When Victoria Woodhull on the debate platform 
spoke of the same Utopia, Blood was impressed. And when 
she spoke of the slavery of wifehood, when she announced 
that there was no such thing as sin, he knew he must meet 

To meet her, Blood pretended to be a client needing ad- 
vice. His delicacy was not necessary. According to Tilton, 
it was Victoria who at once saw a soulmate in Blood and 
seduced him forthwith. "Col. James H. Blood . . . called 
one day on Mrs. Woodhull to consult her as a Spiritualistic 
physician (having never met her before), and was startled to 
see her pass into a trance, during which she announced, un- 
consciously to herself, that his future destiny was to be 
linked with hers in marriage. Thus, to their mutual amaze- 
ment, but to their subsequent happiness, they were betrothed 
on the spot by 'the powers of the air. 7 " 

After that impromptu betrothal, Victoria and Blood lived 
as lovers. Blood abandoned St. Louis and his family to travel 
with Victoria to Chicago. Victoria also permitted the cuck- 
olded, unprotesting Dr. Woodhull to accompany her, and 
assigned him to the task of looking after their children. In 
Chicago, after much legal difficulty, Victoria divorced Dr. 
Woodhull on the charge of adultery, and Blood divorced his 
wife after agreeing to a substantial settlement. Victoria and 
Tennessee rented a house on Harrison Street and performed 
as oracles. When neighbors suspected that they were also 
performing as women of easy virtue, the police were sum- 
moned. There being no proof of prostitution, the law ac- 
cused them of "fraudulent fortune-telling." Once again the 
menage was on the road. In Pittsburgh, Victoria saw the 
light on the marble table which spelled the name Demosthenes 
and the vision that was to lead her to Commodore Van- 

The Square Pegs 

Having acquired, through Vanderbilt's friendship and ad- 
vice, a profit of $700,000 by stock speculation (though she 
complained that her business and family expenses amounted 
to $300,000 a year) and assured of an income of $50,000 
annually from her thriving brokerage firm, which recom- 
mended investments in subway projects and silver mines, 
Victoria turned her full attentions to promoting her candi- 
dacy for president of the United States. Probably no one, 
not even Victoria, could properly define her real purpose in 
competing for the nation's highest office. In an age when 
women in America had not even the vote (except in the 
Wyoming territory) her candidacy was regarded as pure ec- 
centricity. Her real purpose undoubtedly was colored by a 
need for publicity and attention, and an honest desire to 
dramatize the rising clamor among women for equal rights 
and a single moral standard. 

However, Victoria's candidacy would have died stillborn 
had it not been for the astute direction of two men who 
cleverly guided her every action. One was, of course, Colo- 
nel Blood, who saw in his mistress a mouthpiece for his own 
ideas on fiat money, female emancipation, and labor reform. 
The other, a newcomer to Victoria's growing circle, was 
the aged, bearded Stephen Pearl Andrews, a brilliant and 
renowned scholar, philosopher, and anarchist. 

Andrews, the son of a Baptist minister, had college degrees 
in law and medicine. He had taught in a ladies' seminary in 
New Orleans, had narrowly escaped lynching in Houston 
for his abolitionist views, and had become an advocate of 
Isaac Pitman's system of shorthand, which he introduced into 
the United States. An extraordinary linguist, he knew thirty- 
two languages, including Chinese, on which he published a 
textbook in 1854. When he had enough of learning languages, 
he invented one of his own called Alwato, a forerunner of 
Esperanto based on his own interpretation of the different 
meanings of sounds. As he grew older, Andrews became more 
deeply interested in sociology. He conceived an anarchistic 


about 1872, 'when a candidate for president 


about 1869, 
pom a photograph by "Helios" (Eadweard Mtiy bridge?) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

perfect state that he called Pantarchy. According to the dic- 
tates of Pantarchy the governing body took care of one's 
children and one's property, leaving the individual free to 
live as he wished. Quite naturally, as the government "had 
no more right to interfere with morals than with religion," 
Andrews's Utopia advocated free and natural love. 

As spiritualism was one more expression of revolt against 
convention, hundreds of spiritualists subscribed to Andrews's 
Pantarchy. But Andrews, a sweet, sincere radical, wanted 
not hundreds, but thousands to follow his new way. In 
Victoria Woodhtill, with her daring and originality, he saw 
a useful ally. If she would be president, she must have a 
platform. Why should her platform not embody the tenets 
of Pantarchy? Andrews managed to meet her and to enchant 
her (she thought him the corporeal representation of her 
beloved Demosthenes). Soon Andrews joined Blood in laying 
out a campaign that would promote her name and their 
own ideas. 

After a series of articles in the New York Herald, signed 
by Victoria Woodhull, but written by Andrews and Blood, 
advocating a universal government and a universal language 
published as a book in 1871 under the title Origin, Tend- 
encies, and Principles of Government it occurred to Vic- 
toria that she could not depend on the New York press 
to continue to publicize her radical views. If she was to 
gain speedy prominence, and successfully propagandize her 
theories, she must have her own newspaper. She had the 
necessary capital and she had the staff. Consequently, on 
May 14, 1870, appeared the first number of a sixteen-page, 
slick-papered journal called Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly. 
Beneath its name the five-cent newspaper bore the legend: 
"Progress! Free Thought! Untrammeled Lives!" And then, 
in smaller print, the promise: "Breaking The Way For 
Future Generations." 

Among the financial advertisements that crowded the first 
issue was a statement of policy. The Weekly would refrain 

The Square Pegs 

from "scurrility in journalism." Instead, it would be "devoted 
to the vital interests of the people." Above all, it would 
"support Victoria C Woodhull for president with its whole 
strength" and would "advocate Suffrage without distinction 
of sex." The articles in the first issue, as well as in the issues 
that followed in the next four months, were tame, restrained, 
ladylike this, curiously, because two male idealists with 
little sense of showmanship were writing the copy. There 
were stories praising Commodore Vanderbilt, deploring 
women's "voluptuous" fashions, and supporting business 
training for young ladies. There was a serialization of a 
novel by George Sand. 

This editorial gentility did little to draw attention to 
Victoria, and it was costing a fortune. In September 1870 
Victoria herself decided to take a more active part in pub- 
lishing the newspaper and, at once, the paper was front- 
page news. Immediately, and for two years after, the Weekly 
gave its faithful readers their five cents' worth and more. 
Article after article appeared supporting free love, abolition 
of the death penalty, short skirts, vegetarianism, excess-profit 
taxes, spiritualism, world government, better public housing, 
birth control, magnetic healing, and easier divorce laws. 
Fearlessly Victoria advocated legalized prostitution, exposure 
of Wall Street's financial swindlers, and compulsory classes 
in physiology for women. At her insistence the Weekly fea- 
tured the first full version of the Communist Manifesto 
published in English, self-help articles on the subject of abor- 
tion, Thomas Carlyle's views on labor and every letter that 
backed Victoria for president. Circulation became national, 
and reached a high of twenty thousand. 

It was not enough for Victoria to plead her progressive 
ideas in print. She insisted upon practicing them, too. It was 
an era when women did not patronize public resturants un- 
escorted after dark. Victoria, accompanied only by Tennes- 
see, brazenly seated herself in Delmonico's one evening at 
seven o'clock and demanded service. Charles Delmonico re- 

The Free Lover Who Ran -for President 

fused to serve her. "I can't let you eat here without some 
man," he said. Whereupon Victoria sent Tennessee outdoors 
to locate a cab driver and bring him to the table. They were 

It was an era when women did not participate in rude 
labor-movements. Victoria joined Section 12 of the Inter- 
national Workingmen's Association, which had been organ- 
ized in 1864 by Karl Marx. The membership of Victoria and 
her followers was viewed with concern by Samuel Gompers. 
"Section 12 of the American group was dominated by a 
brilliant group of faddists, reformers, and sensation-loving 
spirits," observed Gompers. "They were not working people 
and treated their relationship to the labor movement as a 
means to a 'career.' They did not realize that labor issues 
were tied up with the lives of men, women, and children 
issues not to be risked lightly." 

Finally, it was an era when women talked and agitated 
about equal rights, but did nothing more about them. 
Victoria was the first to take direct action in Washington. 
Her motives in planning to storm the nation's capital may 
not have been entirely altruistic. She was beginning to realize 
that her newspaper was not influential enough properly to 
promote her person or her theories. To acquire a wider 
audience she knew that she must air her views in the capital. 
Diligently she studied the records and personalities of con- 
gressional leaders, seeking one man who stood above the 
rest. When this man visited New York, Victoria went to 
see him. He was General Benjamin Franklin Butler, the 
pudgy, cross-eyed representative from Massachusetts. As 
military governor of New Orleans after the Civil War, he 
had been commonly known as Beast Butler and the Blue- 
beard of New Orleans for his uncavalier attitude toward 
Southern womanhood. Though his management of the city 
had been above reproach, his brusque management of its 
female population left much to be desired. When the belles 
of New Orleans insulted Northern soldiers, Butler retaliated 

The Square Pegs 

by declaring that each female offender "be treated as a woman 
of the town plying her avocation." While this put a prompt 
end to all obvious gestures of contempt, the Southern ladies 
still turned their backs to Butler when they saw him, which 
provoked his memorable remark: "These women know which 
end of them looks best." Yet, as a congressman the General 
proved more considerate than his colleagues toward American 
women in general. He believed not only in justice toward 
colored citizens and in the good sense of fiat or greenback 
money issued on faith in government, but also in equal rights 
for women. It was this last that gave Victoria Woodhull her 

Victoria apparently had no difficulty in convincing Butler 
to support her plan. She wished to present a memorial on 
behalf of woman suffrage to the Senate and the House of 
Representatives. Butler thought this a splendid idea. It is said 
that he wrote the memorial and then had the House Judiciary 
Committee invite Victoria to appear in person and read it to 

Victoria, attired in an attractive Alpine hat, blue necktie, 
and dark dress, arrived in Washington prepared to address 
the august representatives on the morning of January n, 
1871. It was a decisive appearance for her, and the arrange- 
ment of the timing (surely at her own suggestion) had be- 
hind it a Machiavellian purpose. For, as Victoria well knew, 
on that very morning the influential National Woman's 
Suffrage Association, led by Susan B. Anthony, Isabella 
Beecher Hooker, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Paulina Wright 
Davis, was about to begin its third annual convention. Vic- 
toria sensed that, by her dramatic and highly publicized ap- 
pearance, she was accomplishing what no member of the 
suffrage movement had yet accomplished. If her memorial 
impressed the committee of men, it might impress the asso- 
ciation of women. And thus, with one stroke, Victoria might 
overcome female resistance to her radicalism and eccentricity 
and take over the suffragette following as her very own. 

( 116) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

Certainly her instinct was correct. For when members of 
the committee assembled behind their long table in the 
crowded room, Susan B. Anthony, Isabella Beecher Hooker, 
and Paulina Wright Davis were on hand, anxiously watching. 

At last Victoria was introduced. She rose gracefully, re- 
spectfully, and in a clear, musical voice began to read aloud 
her brief memorial. After stating that she had been bom in 
Ohio, that she had been a resident of New York for three 
years, that she was a citizen of the United States, she went 

"The right to vote is denied to women citizens of the 
United States, by the operation of Election Laws in the 
several States and Territories ... the continuance of the 
enforcement of said local election laws, denying and abridging 
the right of citizens to vote on account of sex, is a grievance 
to your memorialist and to various other persons, citizens of 
the United States, being women . . . 

"Therefore, your memorialist would most respectfully 
petition your Honorable Bodies to make such laws as in the 
wisdom of Congress shall be necessary and proper for carry- 
ing into execution the right vested by the Constitution in the 
Citizens of the United States to vote, without regard to sex." 

It was an impressive reading. Victoria's simplicity, modesty, 
and feminity won the hearts of the members of the committee, 
but not their heads. Later, with two dissents, they voted 
against the memorial as being outside the province of Con- 
gressional action. The two dissents were made by Lough- 
ridge, of Iowa, and, of course, General Butler, of Massachu- 
setts, whose minority report to the House vigorously backed 
Victoria's demand for equal rights. But if Victoria failed to 
win over the Judiciary Committee, she won a battle almost 
as important that morning. For the suffragette leaders, who 
had seen her and heard her at last, saw and heard not a 
strident Jezebel, but a restrained and refined lady who voiced 
more effectively than they their deepest yearnings. Immedi- 
ately, without hesitation, they congratulated Victoria and 

( "7 ) 

The Square Pegs 

invited her to attend the Suffrage Association convention 
that afternoon and address the delegates. 

The association convened at Lincoln Hall in Washington, 
Victoria was seated on the platform with Susan B. Anthony 
and the other renowned feminists. When she was introduced 
by Isabella Beecher Hooker, who cautioned the audience that 
it was to be Mrs. Woodhull's first public address, Victoria 
appeared faint and needed assistance to come forward. She 
reread the content of her memorial and spoke briefly of the 
reaction it had made upon members of the Judiciary Com- 
mittee. The suffragettes applauded her and welcomed her as 
their newest heroine. 

When the convention broke up, the acceptance of Victoria 
Woodhull as a legitimate suffragette hung briefly in the bal- 
ance. From all corners of the country, followers of the 
movement protested. But the new friends Victoria had made 
in Washington remained staunch. When several persons 
called Victoria an infamous woman, Susan B. Anthony 
snapped back that "she would welcome all the infamous 
women in New York if they would make speeches for free- 

In New York, Victoria tried to consolidate her new 
power and respectability. She made a mild defense of woman 
suffrage at the Cooper Institute and followed this with sev- 
eral windy lectures on labor reform. But her main effort was 
directed toward gaining the support of many still reluctant 
suffrage leaders, among them Mrs. Lillie Devereux Blake, 
president of the New York State Association. Victoria asked 
Mrs. Blake to call. Mrs. Blake called, accompanied by her 
husband, Grinfill Blake, and was met by both Victoria and 
the ever uninhibited Tennessee. Mrs. Blake recorded the ex- 
perience in her diary: "In the evening went to Woodhull and 
Claflin's, where we had a curious time." The curious time 
was elaborated upon, later, in a memoir, by Mrs. Blake's 
daughter, Katherine D. Blake: 

"I remember vividly that the next morning she [Mrs. 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

Blake] said at the breakfast table, 'Grinfill! You know you 
behaved disgracefully last night!' 

"His reply was, 'Well, Lillie, my dear, if you will take 
me to a house where there are not chairs enough to sit on, 
so that a pretty plump young lady [Tennessee] with nothing 
on but a Mother Hubbard comes and sits on the arm of 
my chair and leans over me, you must expect me to put my 
arm around her.' " 

Thereafter, Mrs. Blake was an implacable enemy. She kept 
her distance, and her husband distant, from Victoria. She 
also withheld all suffragette support from Victoria. Presently 
she began to receive anonymous letters which, according to 
Katherine D. Blake, warned her "that unless she paid $500 
her misdeeds would be 'shown up' in Woodhull and Claflin's 
scurrilous paper." Mrs. Blake put the blame for blackmail 
squarely on Victoria's shoulders, accusing her of having "had 
similar letters written to many other people." Others, too, 
accused Victoria of resorting to blackmail to bludgeon an- 
tagonistic suifragettes into compliance, though Victoria al- 
ways vehemently denied the charges. At any rate, by this 
time she realized that she could not overcome all resistance 
to her candidacy. She had to be satisfied with the support 
of the liberal element of the feminist movement, and she 
moved quickly to exploit this support. 

The anniversary of the launching of the suffrage movement 
was scheduled to be celebrated in Apollo Hall, New York 
City, on May n, 1871. Victoria, who had found her stage 
presence at last, made a ringing, emotional bid for followers 
and front-page attention. "If the very next Congress refuses 
women all the legitimate results of citizenship," she cried, 
"we shall proceed to call another convention expressly to 
frame a new constitution and to erect a new government. . . . 
We mean treason; we mean secession, and on a thousand 
times grander scale than was that of the South. We are 
plotting revolution; we will overthrow this bogus Republic 
and plant a government of righteousness in its stead." 

( 119) 

The Square Pegs 

The good effects of this speech were nullified in five days 
by a public scandal instigated by Victoria's mother. Some 
months earlier, Dr. Canning Woodhull had appeared at the 
three-story house at 15 East Thirty-eighth Street which 
Victoria maintained for herself and her relatives. Since the 
divorce Dr. Woodhull had lost himself in alcoholism. He 
was impoverished and he was ill, and he begged Victoria 
for help. She took him in to care for their two children. 
She did not think it unusual that her lover, Colonel Blood, 
remained under the same roof. But Roxanna Claflin thought 
it unusual, and she saw her chance to get rid of Blood. She 
hated him. She thought that he had filled Victoria's head 
with high-flown ideas, that he had taken her from the happier 
life of the medicine show and spiritualism, and that he was 
using her only for her money, which might better be diverted 
to the Claflins. Moreover, Blood had little respect for Mrs. 
Claflin and had often threatened her. 

In a fine frenzy Mrs. Claflin went to the police. At the 
Essex Street station she swore out a complaint against Colonel 
Blood for assault and battery. "My daughters were good 
daughters and affectionate children," she told the law, "till 
they got in with this man Blood. He has threatened my life 
several times. ... I say here and I call Heaven to witness 
that there was the worst gang of free lovers in that house 
in Thirty-eighth Street that ever lived. Stephen Pearl An- 
drews and Dr. Woodhull and lots more of such trash." 

The case went to court. Colonel Blood said that he had 
never laid a hand on Mrs. Claflin. Once he had threatened 
to "turn her over my knee and spank her." That was the 
extent of it. He insisted that he was Victoria's husband, 
though there was no proof of it. When asked if he and Dr. 
Woodhull occupied the same bedroom with Victoria, he 
would not reply. Victoria appeared in defense of her lover. 
"Colonel Blood never treated my mother otherwise than 
kind, . . . Sometimes she would come down to the table and 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

sit on Mr. Blood's lap and say he was the best son-in-law 
she had. Then again she would abuse him like a thief." Ten- 
nessee testified that Colonel Blood rescued her from the evil 
influence of her mother and family. "Since I was fourteen 
years old, I have kept thirty or thirty-five deadheads. ... I 
have humbugged people, I know. But if I did it, it was to 
make money to keep these deadheads." Dr. Woodhull wob- 
bled up to the stand to state that, notwithstanding Mrs. 
Claflin's charges, it was she who was actually threatening 
poor Blood. In the end, the judge threw the case out of court 
and into the lap of the press. 

The press, less interested in mother love than in free love, 
was fascinated only by the fact that a presidential candidate, 
female, was keeping two lovers, male, in her bedroom at the 
same time. As far away as Cleveland, the Leader branded 
Victoria "a vain, immodest, unsexed woman" and a "brazen 
snaky adventuress." And in New York, for all who knew her 
to read, Horace Greeley wrote in the Tribune: "Let her be 
the one who has two husbands after a sort, and lives in the 
same house with them both, sharing the couch of one, but 
bearing the name of the other (to indicate her impartiality 
perhaps) and cause and candidate will be so fitly mated . . . 
that there will be no occasion even under the most liberal 
and progressive enlightened regime to sue for their divorce." 

In her Weekly, Victoria lashed out, first at Greeley, then 
at all who mocked and criticized her. "Mr. Greeley's home 
has always been a sort of domestic hell . . . the fault and 
opprobrium of domestic discord has been heaped on Mrs. 
Greeley. . . . Whenever a scold, a nervous, an unreasonable, 
or even a devilish tendency is developed in a wife, it is well 
to scrutinize closely the qualities of the husband." As for 
the rest of them, let them cower in their glass houses. "At 
this very moment, awful and herculean efforts are being 
made to suppress the most terrific scandal in a neighboring 
city which has ever astounded and convulsed any commu- 

The Square Pegs 

nity . . . We have the inventory of discarded husbands and 
wives and lovers, with dates, circumstances and establish- 


Still Victoria was not done. Her blood boiled at the in- 
justice of being so severely and universally condemned and 
censured. She must let more persons than the readers of her 
Weekly know her true feelings. She must be vindicated in 
their eyes. Thus, on May 20, 1871, she addressed a letter, or 
"card" as such communications were then called, to the ed- 
itor of the New York World, with a copy written out for 
The New York Times. Two days after its receipt it was 
published prominently in the World. It was not, as we shall 
see, just another angry protest. For in its content was an 
elaboration of that "most terrific scandal in a neighboring 
city," previously mentioned by Victoria in her Weekly, 
which would rock all of America and bring an idol crashing 
down from his high pedestal. Victoria's memorable revela- 
tion began: 

"Sir: Because I am a woman, and because I conscientiously 
hold opinions somewhat different from the self-elected or- 
thodoxy which men find their profit in supporting, and be- 
cause I think it my bounden duty and my absolute right to 
put forward my opinions and to advocate them with my 
whole strength, self-orthodoxy assails me, vilifies me, and 
endeavors to cover my life with ridicule and dishonor. 

"This has been particularly the case in reference to certain 
law proceedings into which I was recently drawn by the 
weakness of one very near relative and the profligate self- 
ishness of other relatives." 

Victoria went on to admit candidly that she did, indeed, 
dwell "in the same house with my former husband . . . and 
my present husband." She could not, she said, do otherwise, 
for Dr. Woodhull was ill and needed her support. Despite 
this charity, "various editors have stigmatized me as a living 
example of immorality and unchastity." Victoria said she 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

was always prepared for criticism, but on this occasion her 
enemies had gone too far. 

"I know that many of my self-appointed judges and crit- 
ics are deeply tainted with the vices they condemn. ... I 
advocate Free Love in its highest, purest sense, as the only 
cure for the immorality, the deep damnation by which men 
corrupt and disfigure God's most holy institution of sexual 
relation. My judges preach against free love openly, practice 
it secretly; their outward seeming is fair, inwardly they are 
full of 'dead men's bones and all manner of uncleanliness.' 
For example, I know of one man, a public teacher of emi- 
nence, who lives in concubinage with the wife of another 
public teacher, of almost equal eminence. All three concur 
in denouncing offenses against morality. 'Hypocrisy is the 
tribute paid by vice to virtue.' So be it. But I decline to 
stand up as the 'frightful example.' " 

Several hours after the publication of this letter, Victoria 
sent a message to Theodore Tilton, a "public teacher" who 
was editor of the Golden Age magazine. She asked him to 
call upon her, at once, at her office. He appeared, at once, 
wary and puzzled. Victoria handed him the morning edition 
of the World, folded open to her letter. 

Victoria indicated the letter. "I wish you would read it 

He read it aloud. He read all of it, including the exposure 
of "a public teacher of eminence, who lives in concubinage 
with the wife of another public teacher, of almost equal 
eminence." He finished lamely, and looked up. 

"Do you know, sir, to whom I refer in that card?" asked 

"How can I tell to whom you refer in a blind card like 

"I refer, sir, to the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher and 
your wife." 

Tilton showed his surprise, not at the knowledge of his 

( 123 ) 

The Square Pegs 

wife's infidelity, about which he already knew, but at the 
realization that her infidelity was public property. 

Victoria watched him. "I read by the expression on your 
face that my charge is true." 

Tilton did not deny that it was true. When Victoria went 
on to review the aif air in detail, he was forced to agree that 
her account, though "extravagant and violent," was substan- 
tially accurate. Tilton had to face an ugly fact: his pious 
wife's adultery, begun three years before and made known 
to him only eleven months before, could no longer be kept 

The scandal had had its beginnings on that day in 1855 
when Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, pastor of the wealthy 
Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, officiated at the wedding of 
a worshipful member of his flock, the darkly attractive, 
charming Elizabeth Richards, to a handsome, twenty-year- 
old journalist named Theodore Tilton. 

In the fifteen years following the wedding, the short, 
stocky, dynamic Beecher became the highest-paid preacher 
in America. He received $20,000 a year from the grateful 
Plymouth Church. He collected an additional $15,000 an- 
nually from writing and speaking tours. His colorful sermons 
made him not only a god to the three thousand Congrega- 
tionalists who packed his church every week, but also a 
Republican of national prominence. Though he frowned upon 
the free-love theories held by Victoria Woodhull and her 
followers, he considered himself liberal and open-minded. He 
permitted the celebrated atheist Robert Ingersoll to address 
his congregation. He defended his Jewish brethren against 
the anti-Semitism of Judge Henry Hilton in the notorious 
Saratoga hotel boycott of Joseph Seligman. He tried to auc- 
tion a slave woman from his pulpit to publicize his sister's 
book, Uncle Torrfs Cabin. He was a man of magnetic per- 
sonality, and his followers were fanatically devoted to him. 
Yet, for all of his success and acclaim, he was a lonely and 
restless person. An early marriage had bound him to a thin- 

( 124) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

lipped, disapproving, forever unamused New England wife 
named Eunice Bullard. She gave him nine children and little 
else. Her conversation, Beecher admitted, was "vapid" and 
"juiceless." Eventually, Beecher turned from his unhappy 
wife to the company of more admiring women. And finally, 
as an outlet for his needs and desires, he settled upon the 
wife of his protege and closest friend. 

Elizabeth Richards had, in a sense, been a product of 
Beecher's teaching and of his fervor. She had gone to school 
with one of his daughters and she had been a member of his 
church for fifteen years. When she met young Tilton she 
brought him into the church. Tilton was the eternal juvenile. 
Greeley dubbed him "Boy Theodore." The son of a carpen- 
ter, Tilton was educated at New York City College. Upon 
leaving school he became a reporter on the New York Ob- 
server. Though tall and strong, he possessed an air of fem- 
inine softness. He was brilliant, he was idealistic, and he 
was weak. 

The year after his marriage Tilton fell under Beecher's 
influence and patronage. Through the pastor's intervention 
Tilton became editor, and then part owner, of the Independ- 
ent, his salary climbing from $700 to $15,000 a year. Tilton 
and Beecher became close companions, and the lonely pastor 
was constantly in the Tilton home. 

Beecher had always been aware of Elizabeth Tilton, first 
as an awed member of his congregation, then as the wife 
of his best friend. But soon enough he began to consider 
the warm, slight brunette as something more than a friend. 
And Elizabeth Tilton, now "Lib" to her pastor, found her- 
self drawn closer to Beecher because of problems that had 
arisen with her husband. Tilton had become a fanatic 
abolitionist and had abandoned religion for free thought. Too, 
it was rumored that he was neglecting his wife for the 
company of other women. One of these women was a pretty, 
sixteen-year-old girl, Bessie Turner, who was employed to 
help care for his five children. Tilton had much affection for 

( 125 ) 

The Square Pegs 

this girl, and on a night in 1867 he entered her bedroom 
lightly clad and slid into bed beside her. According to Miss 
Turner, Tilton whispered "that if I would allow him to 
caress me and to love me as he wanted to do that no harm 
should come to me, and that a physical expression of love 
was just the same as a kiss or a caress." 

In August 1868 Elizabeth Tilton lost a son by cholera. If 
ever she needed consoling, this was the time. But her husband 
was off on a lecture tour. At last, she went to see Beecher 
at his home. She said that she needed him. As it turned out, 
he needed her as much. And that night, in her diary, 
Elizabeth wrote: "October 10, 1868. A Day Memorable." 
The most detailed account of the illicit affair was later made 
public by Tilton himself: 

"She then said to me ... that this sexual intimacy had 
begun shortly after the death of her son Paul . . . that she 
had received much consolation during that shadow on our 
house, from her pastor; that she had made a visit to his 
house while she was still suffering from that sorrow, and 
that there, on the loth of October, 1868, she had surrendered 
her body to him in sexual embrace; that she had repeated 
such an act on the following Saturday evening at her own 
residence . . . that she had consequent upon those two oc- 
casions repeated such acts at various times, at his residence 
and at hers, and at other places such acts of sexual inter- 
course continuing from the Fall of 1868 to the Spring of 
1870 . . . that after her final surrender, in October, 1868, he 
had then many times solicited her when she had refused; 
that the occasions of her yielding her body to him had not 
been numerous, but that his solicitations had been frequent 
and urgent, and sometimes almost violent. . . ." 

Tilton was able to reveal these details because he had 
heard them from his wife's lips on the evening of July 3, 
1870. Conscience-stricken, she had at last broken away from 
Beecher and decided to confess all to her husband. She told 
him that her fall had been encouraged not by "vulgar 

( 126) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

thoughts," but by gratefulness to Beecher for his kind at- 
tentions in her bereavement and by his authoritative insistence 
that the act was not sinful. Through the year-and-a-half 
affair, she said, she had been in a "trance." She made him 
vow to keep his knowledge secret. And he agreed. 

But secret, as we know, is probably the most elastic word 
in English usage. Tilton, his reaction varying between hurt 
and happy martyrdom, unburdened himself to a close friend, 
Martha Bradshaw, a deaconess of Beecher's church. He then 
repeated the same story to Henry Bowen, his publisher, whose 
own wife had once been seduced by Beecher. As for Eliz- 
abeth, she expiated her sin further by disclosing it to her 
hysterical and talkative mother, Mrs. Nathan B. Morse, who 
in turn gossiped about it to intimate friends. 

When Victoria Woodhull revealed to Tilton her own full 
knowledge of the scandal, he thought at once that she had 
heard it from Mrs. Morse. He was wrong. Victoria had 
heard the scandal on May 3, 1871, from her fellow suffragette 
Elizabeth Cady Stanton during a private chat on marriage 
and free love. Not long before, Mrs. Stanton had been per- 
sonal witness to the discord at the Tiltons, and she told 
Victoria about it. 

It appeared that Tilton had dined with Mrs. Stanton and 
Mrs. Bullard at the latter's home. They planned to discuss 
the policy of The Revolution, a sufferage newspaper, which 
Tilton was helping them edit. But Tilton had no mind for 
journalism that evening. When the talk turned to marriage 
reform, Tilton exploded with a tirade against the influence 
of Beecher. He said that he despised "the damned lecherous 
scoundrel." And he told the startled ladies his reasons. 

This was the morsel of gossip which Mrs. Stanton passed 
along to Victoria Woodhull. Had Mrs. Stanton held her 
tongue, it is possible that there would never have been a 
Beecher-Tilton case in American history. 

When Theodore Tilton left Victoria Woodhull's presence 
that late morning of May 22, 1871, he realized that he was 

( 127 ) 

The Square Pegs 

faced with a single difficult duty. He must preserve his 
wife's reputation and his own by convincing Victoria that 
the scandal must not be exposed to further publicity. To 
this end, employing the principals involved, the services of 
his pen, and even his own sexuality, Tilton for more than a 
year sought to divert Victoria from any indulgence in sen- 

Tilton, despite Elizabeth's protests, took Victoria to meet 
her, to prove to Victoria that his wife was really decent and 
deserved no injury. When he brought Victoria into the house, 
and introduced her, he said to his wife: "Elizabeth, Mrs. 
Woodhull knows all." Elizabeth was troubled. "Everything?" 
Tilton nodded. The rest of the meeting went smoothly. As 
Elizabeth sewed she discussed her opinions on many subjects, 
and later presented her guest with a volume of verse. 

Next, Tilton went to Henry Ward Beecher and advised 
him to receive Victoria and "treat her with kindness." Ap- 
parently the pastor was agreeable, for Tilton was able to 
write Victoria: "My dear Victoria . . . you shall see Mr. 
Beecher at my house on Friday night. He will attend a 
meeting of the church at ten o'clock and will give you the 
rest of the evening as late as you desire." 

Victoria was waiting in the Tilton parlor when Beecher 
arrived. She greeted him warmly, arms extended. They dis- 
cussed the subject of marriage, and Beecher agreed that it 
was "the grave of love." Victoria chided him for not preach- 
ing what he believed, and he replied, uncomfortably: "If I 
were to do so, I should preach to empty seats and it would 
be the ruin of my church." Now she came to the topic 
uppermost in her mind. She wanted his public endorsement. 
She had written him, the day before, that she was scheduled 
to speak at Steinway Hall and "what I say or shall not say 
will depend largely upon the result of the interview." Bluntly 
she asked him to appear on the platform with her and intro- 
duce her. Beecher recoiled at the request. She was going 
to discuss free love, and he would have no part of it. Victoria 

( 128 ) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

called him "a moral coward." It is possible she threatened 
him. At any rate, as she recalled it, he immediately climbed 
"upon the sofa on his knees beside me, and taking my face 
between his hands, while the tears streamed down his cheeks, 
he begged me to let him off." When Victoria remained un- 
moved and repeated that she might yet expose his infamy, 
he exclaimed: "Oh! if it must come, let me know of it 
twenty-four hours in advance, that I may take my own life." 
Years after, Victoria confessed to one of her associates that 
"she herself had had sexual relations both with Tilton and 
with Beecher." 

When Victoria finally appeared at Steinway Hall on the 
evening of November 20, 1871, it was not Beecher, but 
Tilton who introduced her. This pacified her sufficiently to 
make her omit, in her talk on social freedom, any mention 
of the scandal. As it turned out, her speech proved inflam- 
matory enough. She called marriage laws "despotic, remnants 
of the barbaric age in which they were originated." She 
predicted that free love would be the religion of the next 
generation. There was considerable heckling from the vast, 
unruly audience, and during the speech some voice bellowed: 
"Are you a free lover?" Victoria left her text to shout 
back: "Yes! I am a free lover!" Half the audience cheered, 
the other half booed. Angrily, speaking extemporaneously, 
Victoria went on: 

"I have an inalienable, constitutional, and natural right to 
love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as 
I can, to change that love every day if I please! And with 
that right neither you nor any law you can frame have 
any right to interfere. . . ." 

Tilton continued to conciliate Victoria in every way. He 
wrote lectures for her. He wrote, and rewrote, from notes 
supplied by Colonel Blood, a nauseatingly saccharine biog- 
raphy of her entitled "An Account of Mrs. Woodhull," 
which was printed as a special Golden Age Tract. Finally, 
after swimming with her at Coney Island and spending long 

( 129) 

The Square Pegs 

evenings conversing with her, Tilton became Victoria's lover. 
Whether this consummation of their intimacy was a studied 
effort by Tilton to placate her, or the natural result of his 
proximity to her seductive person, we will never know. But 
the affair occurred, and Victoria acknowledged it publicly 
several years later, much to Tilton's embarrassment and his 
wife's distress. A reporter on the Chicago Times- asked her 
for an opinion of Theodore Tilton. 

"I ought to know Mr. Tilton," Victoria replied frankly. 
"He was my devoted lover for more than half a year, and 
I admit that during that time he was my accepted lover. A 
woman who could not love Theodore Tilton, especially in 
reciprocation of a generous, overwhelming affection such as 
he was capable of bestowing, must be indeed dead to all 
the sweeter impulses of our nature. I could not resist his 
inspiring fascinations." 

"Do I understand, my dear Madame," asked the incredu- 
lous reporter, "that the fascination was mutual and irresist- 

"You will think so," said Victoria, "when I tell you that 
so enamored and infatuated with each other were we that 
for three months we were hardly out of each other's sight 
day or night. He slept every night for three months, in my 
arms. Of course we were lovers devoted, true and faithful 

However, Victoria disengaged herself from Tilton's em- 
braces long enough to set in motion a new scheme that 
might enhance her chances of becoming president of the 
United States. She mentioned to Mrs. Stanton, Mrs. Hooker, 
and other gullible feminists that the Suffrage Association 
would be wise to create its own political party and sponsor 
its own candidates for public office. The idea thrilled the 
suffragettes, and at once they printed announcements sum- 
moning delegates to a convention at Steinway Hall on May 9 
and 10, 1872. "We believe that the time has come for the 
formation of a new political party whose principles shall 

( 130) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

meet the issues of the hour and represent equal rights for 
all." To these announcements, at Victoria's suggestion, Mrs. 
Stanton appended the all-powerful name of Susan B. An- 

Miss Anthony was lecturing in Illinois when she picked 
up the latest issue of the Woodhull & Claftin's Weekly and 
read that she was sponsoring a new political party. She per- 
ceived, at once, Victoria's ulterior purpose. Victoria was 
making a daring bid to reorganize the suffragette movement 
so that she might take it over. Miss Anthony acted with 
firmness and dispatch. She telegraphed the association to 
remove her name from the list of sponsors. She told them 
that she was coming to New York otx the first train to 
protect their interests. She wrote them: "Mrs. Woodhull has 
the advantage of us because she has her paper, but she per- 
sistently means to run our craft into her port and none 

Once in New York, Miss Anthony made it known that 
none of Victoria's vast and varied following, which has been 
organized as the Victoria League, would be eligible to attend 
the suffragette convention. Mrs. Stanton thought Miss An- 
thony unreasonable, but Miss Anthony would not budge. If 
there was to be a suffrage convention, it would be for le- 
gitimate suffragettes only. 

The suffrage convention began on schedule in Steinway 
Hall, with Miss Anthony in the chair and Mrs. Stanton de- 
livering the keynote address. Victoria was nowhere to be 
seen. As the business of the meeting continued into the night, 
and neared adjournment, there was a sudden commotion 
backstage. Dramatically Victoria Woodhull materialized, de- 
termined to be heard by the great assembly. 

As Miss Anthony rushed to block her way, Victoria faced 
the audience and made a motion that the convention adjourn 
and reconvene the following day in Apollo Hall, which she 
had leased for her supporters. From the floor, someone 
seconded the motion. Hastily Victoria called for a vote, and 

The Square Pegs 

was answered by a scattering of ayes. But Miss Anthony was 
equal to the crisis. She spoke rapidly and strongly. There 
could be no vote, for there had been no motion by a legitimate 
member of the Suffrage Association. "Nothing that this per- 
son has said will be recorded in the minutes," she cried. 
"The convention will now adjourn to meet tomorrow at 
eleven o'clock in this hall" Victoria tried to be heard again, 
but Miss Anthony overrode her, shouting to the janitor to 
turn down the gas lights. In a matter of minutes the hall 
was darkened, emptied of delegates, and Victoria was alone. 
Defeated at her own game, she had lost the support of the 
suffrage movement forever. 

The following morning, when the Suffrage Association, 
cleansed and chastened, met again, it unanimously elected 
Susan B. Anthony as its leader. Elsewhere, a determined 
Victoria Woodhull and her aides were busily herding 660 
followers defected suffragettes, spiritualists, socialists, mem- 
bers of Section 1 2 of the International, free lovers, and free- 
lance cranks into Apollo Hall for the purpose of creating 
a vigorously new political party. 

Judge Reymart, of New York, presided. He introduced 
Stephen Pearl Andrews, who moved that the new convention 
call itself the Equal Rights Party. His motion was carried. 
Then other orators took over. There was a speech in favor 
of a minimum wage. There was a poem that deplored brib- 
ery and corruption. And, by evening, at last there was 

To thunderous applause she spoke against the corporations, 
against the Vanderbilts and Astors, against the two-party 
system, against the republic of men. With evangelical fervor 
she reached the climax of her address: 

"From this convention will go forth a tide of revolution 
that shall sweep over the whole world. What does freedom 
mean? The inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit 
of happiness. What is equality? It is that every person shall 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

have the same opportunities to exercise the inalienable rights 
belonging to the individual. And what justice? That the 
alienable rights belonging to individuals shall be jealously- 
guarded against encroachment. Shall we be slaves to escape 
revolution? Away with such weak stupidity! A revolution 
shall sweep with resistless force, if not fury, over the whole 
country, to purge it of political trickery, despotic assumption, 
and all industrial injustice. Who will dare to attempt to un- 
lock the luminous portals of the future with the rusty key 
of the past!" 

The moment had come. Judge Carter, of Ohio, leaped to 
the edge of the platform. "I nominate Victoria C. Woodhull 
for president of the United States!" he .shouted. "All in favor 
of the nomination say aye!" Apollo Hall trembled under 
the roar of ayes. Hundreds were on their feet, screaming, 
cheering, waving hats, handkerchiefs, as Tennessee Claflin, 
herself a candidate for Congress, led four hundred Negro 
soldiers and a band up the chaotic aisles. 

When the tumult had been stilled, and order restored, 
Victoria made a short, modest speech of acceptance and 
thanks. The chair then opened nominations for vice-president. 
A man in the audience offered up the name of a prominent 
redskin, Chief Spotted Tail. An emancipated woman shouted 
that Colonel Blood belonged on the ticket with Victoria. 
Moses Hull, of Kentucky, nominated Frederick Douglass, a 
onetime fugitive slave who had acquired an international 
reputation as a reformer, author, and lecturer. "We have had 
the oppressed sex represented by Woodhull," stated Hull. 
"We must have the oppressed race represented by Douglass!" 
The candidates were put to a vote, and it was Douglass for 
vice-president by an overwhelming majority. 

Later, when ratification of the ticket occurred, Tennessee's 
band played again. The music was "Comin' thro' the Rye." 
But the words, boomed forth by hundreds of hoarse voices, 
were new and exciting: 

( 133 ) 

The Square Pegs 

Yes! Victoria <we've selected 

For our chosen head: 

With Fred Douglass on the ticket 

We will raise the dead. 

Then around them let us rally 

Without -fear or dread., 

And next March, we'll put the Grundys 

In their little bed. 

But the flush of recognition was only briefly enjoyed by 
Victoria. Though a Kentucky congressman soberly an- 
nounced that female agitation might give Mrs. Woodhull his 
state by twenty thousand votes, the Suffrage Association 
made it clear that their female members and their members* 
husbands were going to boycott the Equal Rights Party. 
Though Colonel Blood estimated that the shrewd nomination 
of Douglass might give Victoria the lion's share of the four 
million Negro votes, Douglass himself quickly shattered this 
dream. According to Mrs. Blake's diary, "Douglass knew 
nothing of the performance until, horrified, he read about it 
in the morning papers." At once he wrote an open letter to 
the press declining the nomination. The New York papers, 
as one, ridiculed Victoria in cartoon and print. Official sources 
were even less tolerant. The Governor of Massachusetts made 
it clear that he would not permit Mrs. Woodhull to cam- 
paign in Boston. "You might as well have the undressed 
women of North Street on the stage there." 

Immediately it became apparent that by legitimizing her 
candidacy for president, Victoria had weakened her position. 
Before the nomination, she had been regarded as a progres- 
sive, if somewhat bold, eccentric. With the nomination, and a 
following that did not include the more stable suffragettes, 
she was regarded as a potentially dangerous radical. The rent 
on her brokerage house was raised $1,000 a year, and it had 
to be shut down. Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, neglected 
and already in debt, lost the support of Commodore Van- 

( 134) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

derbilt. Financial advertising was withdrawn, and the peri- 
odical was temporarily suspended. The landlord of the house 
on Thirty-eighth Street, hinting outside pressure, asked Vic- 
toria and her family to leave the premises. Neighbors were 
muttering about prostitution, and certain people had objected 
to Victoria's muckracking against the "rottenness of the social 
condition." No hotel or boardinghouse would take her in, 
and one night she and her family were forced to camp in 
the street. At last, relatives located a residence, but Victoria's 
troubles continued to mount. 

Theodore Tilton had had enough of pacifying and loving 
the presidential candidate, and he was through. He said that 
he broke with Victoria because he resented her public re- 
marks against suffragettes who were his old friends. She said 
that she broke with Tilton because he preferred to support 
Horace Greeley, rather than herself, for the presidency. 
Meanwhile, two of Beecher's most respected sisters savagely 
fought Victoria in print. Earlier Catharine Beecher, resentful 
of Victoria's hints at scandal, had warned her: "Remember, 
Victoria Woodhull, that I shall strike you dead." She struck 
through her more famous sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who 
had become wealthy and world renowned twenty years be- 
fore on the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The puri- 
tanical Mrs. Stowe, who had only recently raised a storm of 
protest in England by charging Lord Byron with incest (in 
defense of Lady Byron, who was her friend), now set her 
sights on Victoria. She published a series of sharp articles 
against Victoria in Christian Union, and she published a novel 
in which a thinly disguised Victoria was portrayed in any- 
thing but a flattering light. Victoria was stung. Angered by 
defeat and persecution, she decided to retaliate in such a way 
as to wound her enemies and regain her position of national 
prominence on the eve of the elections. 

It was September n, 1872, and Victoria, despite the Gov- 
ernor's ban, was in Boston to address the American Associa- 
tion of Spiritualists. Though she was president of the organi- 

( 135 ) 

The Square Pegs 

zation, she wished to speak about something more earthly 
than spiritualism. For the first time naming names, she re- 
vealed the adulterous affair between Beecher and Elizabeth 
Tilton. "Henry Ward Beecher suffered severely," wrote the 
Memphis Appeal. "She said ... he preached every Sunday 
to his mistresses, members of his church, sitting in their 
pews, robed in silks and satins and high respectability!" 
Though Boston and New York papers covered her speech, 
only one dared mention it in print. The Boston Journal re- 
ported that a "prominent New York clergyman was per- 
sonally accused of the most hideous crimes." 

Met by this conspiracy of silence, Victoria took matters 
into her own hands. If the popular press would not be hon- 
est, then she would "ventilate the scandal" in her own peri- 
odical. With the assistance of Blood and Tennessee she revived 
Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, and on the morning of Oc- 
tober 28, 1872, she had her sensation at last. She headlined 
the entire issue, dated five days later: "THE BEECHER-TILTON 
SCANDAL CASE. The Detailed Statement of the Whole Matter 
by Mrs. Woodhull." 

She wrote: "I intend that this article shall burst like a 
bomb-shell into the ranks of the moralistic social camp." She 
pretended that her story had been originally given to a Bos- 
ton paper, which had suppressed it She repeated everything 
that she had heard from Mrs. Stanton and from Tilton. She 
made it plain that she did not disapprove of Beecher's affair 
with Elizabeth after all, she was an advocate of free love. 
What she objected to was his sanctimoniousness. But she 
tried to be understanding of Beecher's passion. "With his de- 
manding physical nature, and with the terrible restrictions 
upon a clergyman's life," she could not see fit to condemn 
him entirely. She even went so far as to praise "the immense 
physical potency of Mr. Beecher . . . Passional starvation, 
enforced on such a nature, so richly endowed ... is a hor- 
rid cruelty. . . . Every great man of Mr. Beecher's type, 

( 136) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

has had in the past, and will ever have, the need for and the 
right to, the loving manifestations of many women." 

But, continued Victoria, Beecher had given grave offense 
to Tilton. When Tilton learned of his wife's unfaithfulness, 
he tore the wedding ring off her finger and smashed Beecher's 
framed picture. Beecher, Victoria concluded eleven columns 
later, was "a poltroon, a coward and a sneak" for not owning 
up to his clandestine affair. 

The uproar that followed was tremendous. Newsboys 
hawked the weekly through the city, and over one hundred 
thousand copies were sold. As copies became scarce, single 
issues began to sell for ten dollars each, and finally for forty. 
Beecher was confronted with the scandal. A friend wanted 
reassurance that the whole thing was a fraud. "Entirely!" 
said Beecher. His attitude made it clear that he was above 
the battle. "In passing along the way, anyone is liable to 
have a bucket of slops thrown upon him," he remarked. But 
if he pretended to ignore the expose, Anthony Comstock 
did not. This part-time guardian of the nation's morals read 
the story after midnight and felt it to be a "most abominable 
and unjust charge against one of the purest and best citizens 
of the United States." When Beecher refused to sue for libel, 
or for anything else, Comstock himself instigated criminal 
action. The morning after publication, he sought out the 
United States District Attorney, who was a member of 
Beecher's congregation, and demanded that Victoria and her 
sister be arrested for sending obscene printed matter through 
the mails. 

The deputy marshals found Victoria and Tennessee in a 
carriage on Broad Street with five hundred new copies of 
their weekly beside them, waiting to be arrested. A prohibi- 
tive bail of $8,000 was placed on each, and they were hustled 
into a cramped cell of the Ludlow Street Jail. After a month 
without trial, they were released on bail, then rearrested on 
another charge and again released on bail, and finally ar- 

( 137) 

The Square Pegs 

rested a third time when Comstock discovered that they were 
sending reprints of their scandal edition through the mails. 
After six months of confinement, Victoria and Tennessee 
were granted a jury trial. Their savior proved to be none 
other than Congressman Butler, who had first brought Vic- 
toria to public prominence in Washington. He had helped 
write the law against sending obscene material through the 
mails and now explained that it was meant to cover only 
"lithographs, prints, engravings, licentious books." In court 
Victoria's attorney pointed out that the offending weekly 
was none of these. The jury agreed and found the sisters 
"Not guilty/' 

But to the editorial writers of The New York Times, 
Victoria was still guilty. In attacking Beecher so unfairly she 
had "disgraced and degraded ... the female name." It was 
not until three years later that Victoria saw herself partially 
vindicated. After Beecher's backers, accusing Tilton of slan- 
der, had drummed him out of the Plymouth Church by a 
vote of 210 to 13, and after an examining committee of the 
church had completely exonerated their beloved pastor, Til- 
ton was moved to act. He instigated suit against Beecher for 
$100,000 for alienation of his wife's affections, and on Jan- 
uary u, 1875, in Brooklyn, the great scandal at last came 
to trial. Tilton testified that Beecher had seduced his wife, 
and for a year and a half "maintained criminal intercourse" 
with her. He presented letters to prove that the good pastor 
had told his wife that she was not properly appreciated by 
her husband and had suggested that they find other ways 
to express their love beyond "the shake of the hand or the 
kiss of the lips." Beecher, for his part, admitted affection, 
denied adultery, and, after 112 days of wrangling and 3,000 
pages of testimony, got a hung jury (with a vote of 9 to 3 
against Tilton after 52 ballots). Beecher's followers gave him 
a hero's welcome. The Louisville Courier-Journal, like most 
of the press in sentiment, branded Beecher "a dunghill cov- 
ered with flowers." 

( 138 ) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

Though Beecher had hoped to become president, his am- 
bitions for public office were destroyed by the scandal. Yet, 
he held his following, and his lecture audiences even increased, 
enabling him to count on as much as $1,000 a speech. As the 
accused, he had survived nicely. Victoria Woodhull as his 
accuser fared not half so well. The scandal she had brought 
to light had done little to aid her in her bid for the presi- 
dency. She was behind bars, in the Ludlow Street Jail, on 
November 5, 1872, when Grant was easily re-elected presi- 
dent. Victoria received no electoral votes and but "few scat- 
tered popular ones." At first she blamed her crushing rejec- 
tion on the corruption of the Grant machine. "If Jesus Christ 
had been running against this man," she told a San Francisco 
audience, "he'd have been defeated." Later she sensed that 
her theories and reforms were too advanced for the general 

For a while, wracked by illness and exhaustion, she per- 
sisted with her lectures on free love. Though well attended, 
they no longer generated the old excitement. As always, 
Victoria continued to live her personal life without regard 
for public opinion. She had several affairs. One was with a 
nineteen-year-old college boy whom she had hired to help 
manage her lectures. His name was Benjamin R. Tucker, and 
in 1926 he revealed the extent of his involvement to Emanie 
Sachs, who published it in The Terrible Siren. Though he 
was shy, he professed to believe in Victoria's doctrines, and 
tried not to appear surprised when she kissed him or sat on 
his lap. One Sunday morning he entered her parlor to find 
her stretched on a lounge. "After some conversation," wrote 
Tucker, "she said: 'Do you know, I should dearly love to 
sleep with you?' Thereupon any man a thousandth part less 
stupid than myself would have thrown his arms around her 
neck and smothered her with kisses. But I simply remarked 
that were her desire to be gratified, it would be my first 
experience in that line. She looked at me with amazement. 
'How can that be?' she asked." The arrival of Colonel Blood 

( 139) 

The Square Pegs 

interrupted any further discussion. But when Tucker re- 
turned that afternoon, Victoria was still waiting to seduce 
him. "Mrs. Woodhull was still obliged to make all the ad- 
vances; I, as before, was slow and hesitating. . . . But, de- 
spite all obstacles, within an hour my c ruin' was complete, 
and I, nevertheless, a proud and happy youth." 

Victoria, apparently, was insatiable, for young Tucker was 
obliged to return for the same purpose that night and fre- 
quently in the days that followed. But when Victoria in- 
sisted upon making this promiscuity a family affair, Tucker 
revolted. "One afternoon, when I was walking up town with 
Victoria from the office, she said to me suddenly, 'Tennie is 
going to love you this afternoon.' I looked at her wonder- 
ingly. 'But,' I said, 'I don't care to have her.' 'Oh, don't say 
that,' she answered; 'nobody can love me who doesn't love 
Tennie.' " With that, Tucker fled. 

Though Victoria expected tolerance toward her own af- 
fairs, she demanded faithfulness on the part of her lovers. 
When in 1876 she learned that Colonel Blood had been at- 
tentive to several young females, she was outraged. She told 
him that she was tired of supporting him and asked him to 
leave. Though they had not been married, Victoria formally 
divorced Blood on the complaint that he had consorted with 
a prostitute. Except for one occasion, years later, when she 
silently passed him on the street, she never saw him again 
and long after, she learned that he had died on a gold-hunt- 
ing expedition to Africa, far from the Utopian world of free 
love and fiat money he had so long adored. 

At about the time of Blood's departure from her home, 
Victoria began to lose interest in radicalism and reform. Her 
ideals seemed as tired and passe as her person. Her existence 
seemed to have lost all point and purpose. Once the noble 
Demosthenes had guided her toward the path to wealth and 
power. She had tasted both and found them bitter. Now her 
deepest yearning was to find peace, normality, and refuge in 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

some placid orthodoxy. And so, in her thirty-eighth year, 
she abandoned Demosthenes for Jesus Christ. 

The startling conversion first became apparent on the edi- 
torial page of the Weekly, which was appearing erratically 
again. A standard quotation from John Stuart Mill on "the 
diseases of society" was abruptly replaced by more soothing 
words from St. Paul. Also, a series of interpretative articles 
on the "Book of Revelations" crowded out shrill arguments 
on equal rights. Finally Victoria canceled her popular lectures 
on the prostitution of marriage for lectures, well punctuated 
with Biblical references, on her discovery that the Garden of 
Eden was in the body of every married woman. 

Before this vague and confused exploration into religion 
could go any further, an event occurred that completely 
changed Victoria's life. On the morning of January 4, 1877, 
after shouting for his wife to sing him some hymns, the 
mighty Commodore Vanderbilt expired. In death, as he had 
in life, he rescued Victoria from need and oblivion. The 
Commodore's will left over $100,000,000 to his heirs. Of this 
total, $95,000,000 went to his eldest son, William, and the 
remaining paltry $5,000,000 to his other son, Cornelius, and 
his eight daughters. The indignant minority sued on the 
grounds that the deceased had been mentally incompetent at 
the time the will was written. Though Cornelius settled for 
$1,000,000 out of court, the eight Vanderbilt daughters 
fought on. To prove their father's incompetence, they con- 
sulted, among many others, Victoria Woodhull, who had 
once been his medium. 

In the clash over the Commodore's will, Victoria saw a 
golden opportunity to recoup her fortune. The Commodore 
had left her nothing, though he had left Tennessee an oil 
painting and had entrusted to both sisters "certain large sums" 
to be used in advancing the cause of spiritualism. Victork 
made it known that the Commodore owed her more than 
$100,000, the residue of an old, unfulfilled business deal. 

The Square Pegs 

While there exists no documentation on what happened next, 
it seems obvious that William Vanderbilt, as main heir and 
defendant, took the hint. Rather than have Victoria testify 
against his interests by recollecting the Commodore's mental 
lapses, William paid off. 

In 1876 Victoria had turned to Christ for salvation, but 
in 1877 it was the Commodore who saved her. We do not 
know the precise sum she extracted. Figures ranging between 
$50,000 and $500,000 have been mentioned. But a condition 
of William's deal apparently was that Victoria and Tennessee 
remove their persons from American soil at once and for the 
duration of the contest over the will. And so, late in 1877, 
with new wardrobe, new servants, and six first-class state- 
rooms, Victoria and Tennessee sailed for England. 

Arriving in London, Victoria leased a fashionable suburban 
home and decided to make herself known by resuming her 
platform appearances. She had posters printed which an- 
nounced the forthcoming personal appearance of "the great 
American orator." On an evening in December 1877 she ad- 
dressed a large audience at St. James's Hall. Her subject was 
"The Human Body, the Temple of God," and though it 
concerned varied problems of motherhood and heredity, there 
was at least one male member of the assemblage who listened 
with rapt attention. His name was John Biddulph Martin, the 
rich and aristocratic son of a rich and aristocratic father. 
Victoria's appearance and her personality moved him deeply. 
"I was charmed with her high intellect and fascinated by her 
manner," Martin recalled later, "and I left the lecture hall 
that night with the determination that, if Mrs. Woodhull 
would marry me, I would certainly make her my wife." 

Soon enough, Martin succeeded in meeting the astonishing 
American "orator." It was not surprising that Victoria found 
him agreeable, and that she could reciprocate his affection. 
She wanted security, acceptance, love, and all of these John 
Biddulph Martin could promise in abundance. At thirty-six 
Victoria was then thirty-nine Martin was a full partner of 

( 142 ) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

the prosperous Martin's Bank, at 68 Lombard Street, London, 
a firm that traced its origin back to 1579. Beyond this major 
inducement, Martin possessed several others. He had been an 
athlete at Oxford, and despite his age and beard, he still had 
the trim appearance of an athlete. He was a quiet man, de- 
voted to culture and scholarship, and Victoria was his first 
real love. 

If Victoria hoped for a quick, happy ending to a tumultu- 
ous career, it was not to be so simple. Martin's parents, at 
Overbury Court, were appalled by his choice for wife. Had 
they thought to investigate Victoria, they would not have 
had to go beyond their daily newspapers. The press, if re- 
strained, made it plain that Mrs. WoodhulPs past had been 
checkered. She had been twice married and twice divorced, 
the elder Martins incorrectly learned. She had crusaded 
horror of horrors for free love. She had been the inmate 
of an American jail. And her name had been linked with such 
public scandals as the Beecher trial and the Vanderbilt-will 
case. Were these the qualifications for an English banker's 
wife? Evidently not. The elder Martins made their disap- 
proval clear. Their son was desolate; their future daughter- 
in-law was indignant. 

Like the ancient Chinese emperor who burned all history 
books and records so that history might begin with him, 
Victoria Woodhull now desperately and grimly set out to 
obliterate her past. She had been, she insisted, the editor of 
Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly in name only. Colonel Blood 
had written those reprehensible articles on free love, and 
Stephen Pearl Andrews had exposed the Beecher-Tilton scan- 
dal, all without her knowledge. While she did, indeed, believe 
in the emancipation of women, all else credited to her pen 
and tongue were the grossest falsehoods. Her own life, from 
birth, had been one of chastity and conformity. 

It took six years to convince the elder Martins. At last, 
probably worn down by Victoria's persistent chatter about 
purity and by their son's endless romantic pleadings, they 

( H3 ) 

The Square Pegs 

withdrew threats of disinheritance and gave their consent. On 
October 31, 1883, at the age of forty-five, Victoria Claflin 
Woodhull became Mrs. John Biddulph Martin, London lady 
and legal mistress of a gray, stately residence at 17 Hyde 
Park Gate. 

But for Victoria, in all her eighteen years of contented 
marriage, the fight to suppress or revise her shocking and 
eccentric past was never done. When some of the wives of 
Martin's friends cut her dead, Victoria offered 1,000 pounds 
reward for a list of those in "conspiracy to defame 7 ' her. 
Just as book publishers print excerpts of good reviews of 
their best authors, Victoria printed and circulated broadsides 
containing good character references taken from carefully 
screened American sources. 

When a friend found two pamphlets on the Beecher-Tilton 
scandal, with ample references to the part played in it by 
Victoria Woodhull, on the shelves of the British Museum, 
and reported it to Victoria, she begged her husband to act. 
On February 24, 1894, Martin brought suit against the trus- 
tees of the British Museum for libel. The trial, such as it was, 
lasted five days. Defended by a peer of the realm, Victoria 
was described as a victim of constant persecution married 
by force to "an inebriate" at an early age, unjustly incar- 
cerated merely because she had taken "a strong view" of 
Reverend Beecher's adultery, maligned because she had 
bravely sought to elevate the status of her sex. The British 
Museum, which had never before been brought to court for 
libel, was represented by a renowned attorney who was also 
one of its trustees. Though his cross-examination of Victoria 
was relentless and detailed, her answers were so discursive 
and vague as to make the usually attentive London Times 
confess to its readers that it could not grasp her testimony. 
In the end the jury agreed that libel had been committed, 
but with no intent at injury, and awarded Victoria twenty 
shillings in damages. 

Ever vigilant, Victoria continued to incite her husband to 

( 144 ) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

defend her good name even when foul aspersions were cast 
from great distances. Time and again, Victoria took Martin 
from his coin collection and from the history of his family's 
bank that he was preparing, and induced him to accompany 
her to America to have justice done. When the Brooklyn 
Eagle featured a series of popular articles by the stern and 
exacting Thomas Byrnes, celebrated police inspector, on in- 
famous female intriguers, and when one of these intriguers 
turned out to be Victoria Woodhull, she hastened to New 
York with Martin for a showdown with Byrnes. Despite her 
protests of "a great injustice," despite Martin's demands for 
retraction, Byrnes would not budge. Facts were facts, and he 
had published facts. Martin was dismayed. "I'm very sorry 
you will do nothing." Byrnes was stone. "I am sorry, too, 
but I am a public official and any statement I make I may 
be held responsible for. And you have the courts to which 
you can have recourse at once." Whereupon Victoria and 
Martin retreated to finish their battle in the press. They told 
reporters that Byrnes had been cordial and apologetic. Byrnes 
heard this with "no little surprise" and announced that he 
had been neither cordial nor apologetic. 

But not all of the Martins' married life was spent com- 
muting to America in Victoria's defense. There were happier 
days in the English years when Victoria sponsored brilliant 
dinners and evenings at Hyde Park Gate for her growing 
number of London friends and followers. And, while she oc- 
cupied herself by again running for president of the United 
States in 1892 (mostly by correspondence), by planning an 
autobiography she never wrote, and by publishing a proper 
monthly called The Humanitarian, John Martin basked in the 
reflected pleasure of her activity, stirring himself only to ful- 
fill his obligations as head of the Royal Statistical Society. 

In his fifty-sixth year Martin fell ill. After a slow recovery 
he was advised to vacation at Las Palmas, in the Canary Is- 
lands, oif Africa. There, in a weakened condition, he con- 
tracted pneumonia, and on March 20, 1897, died. Victoria's 

The Square Pegs 

daughter, Zulu Maud, wrote his obituary for The Humani- 
tarian. "Theirs was a perfect union/' she concluded, "marred 
only by persecution." 

Four years later, Victoria, possessed now of an inheritance 
valued at over $800,000, sold her home at Hyde Park Gate 
and moved to her late husband's country manor at Bredon's 
Norton, Worcestershire. Her ancient valley-residence, thickly 
populated with servants, looked out upon a vast estate and 
the river Avon. Without her husband's restraining influence, 
she quickly reverted to form. While he was still alive she 
had in her monthly denounced socialism and all advanced 
ideas. Now, at sixty-three, insisting that a "charming woman 
has no age," she plunged into a whirl of reform. 

Victoria gave over a portion of her estate to an amazon 
project called Bredon's Norton College, in which young la- 
dies were invited to study agriculture. She flayed the English 
school system as outmoded and opened her own progressive 
kindergartens for village youngsters in the vicinity. She again 
patronized spiritualism and presided at a salon for those who 
believed as she believed. In 1912 she offered an antique silver 
trophy and $5,000 to the first person who would successfully 
fly the Atlantic Ocean. In 1914 she contributed $5,000 to- 
ward the purchase of Sulgrave Manor, the home of George 
Washington's English ancestors, built in 1531, which was 
presented to the Anglo-American Association. In 1915, with 
World War I under way, she worked for the Red Cross and 
at fund-raising campaigns for Belgians and Armenians, and 
sent Woodrow Wilson a stiif cable reading: "Why is Old 
Glory absent from shop windows in England today when 
other flags are flying?" 

At war's end she was very old and very alone. Her daugh- 
ter was ever beside her, but Tennessee remained her closest 
friend. Tennessee, brash and amoral as ever, had fared well 
in the English climate. In 1885, during a seance with a 
wealthy, elderly English widower named Francis Cook, she 
disclosed that the late Mrs. Cook was urging her husband to 

( 146 ) 

The Free Lover Who Ran for President 

marry his medium. The wedding took place at once. Cook, 
who amassed his money importing shawls from India after 
Queen Victoria made them fashionable, possessed an expen- 
sive house near the Thames and another in Portugal. When 
he was knighted, Tennessee became Lady Cook. The title 
did not inhibit her. Upon her husband's death in 1901 she 
was left a fortune of $2,000,000, and she disposed of it with 
reckless philanthropy. She traveled regularly to the United 
States, scolding Theodore Roosevelt in person for not doing 
something about woman suffrage, attempting to establish a 
chain of homes for reformed prostitutes in the South, trying 
to build a "school for fathers" on Long Island, and endeavor- 
ing to raise a female army of 150,000 in 1915. She died in 
January 1923, and though she left a tearful Victoria $500,000 
richer, she deprived her of the last link to the past. 

Victoria knew that her time was near. But she would not 
accept the fact. She felt most alive during afternoons when 
in her white sports-car she urged her nervous chauffeur to 
drive at recklessly high speeds. In her manor house she tried 
to ward off death with innumerable eccentricities. Like Train, 
she refused to shake hands with visitors for fear that they 
might contaminate her. At nights she avoided her bed as she 
would a coffin, preferring to sleep in a rocking chair. 

But on the morning of June 20, 1927, while English women 
were awakening and American women were going to sleep, 
all fully possessed of the equal rights for which she had so 
long fought, death came to Victoria Claflin Woodhull Martin. 
In three months she would have been ninety years old. Her 
epitaph had been prepared long years before, by an admiring 
editor in Troy, New York. He had written history's verdict 
in a sentence: 

"She ought to be hanged, and then have a monument 
erected to her memory at the foot of the gallows." 


The Forty-Niner 
Who Abolished Congress 

"We do hereby Order and Direct Major General 
Scott, the Commander-in-Chief of our Armies, 
immediately on receipt of this our Decree, to 
proceed with a suitable force and clear the Halls 
of Congress" 


On April 15, 1876, Dom Pedro II, who had the appear- 
ance of an Old Testament patriarch and was to be the 
last emperor of Brazil, disembarked in New York for a 
three-month visit to the United States. Though Secretary of 
State Hamilton Fish was on hand to meet him, the studious 
South American sovereign insisted that he wished no official 
receptions, but preferred to do his sight-seeing as a private 

Within two days, at his own request, Dom Pedro was on 
a train to the Far West, eagerly peering through his window 
for glimpses of redskins or Mormon harems. In San Fran- 
cisco he attended a performance of King Lear, visited China- 
town, translated several Hebrew scrolls in a synagogue on 
Sutter Street, and generally did as he pleased. But when the 
University of California, across the bay, solicited his attend- 
ance at an official reception in his honor, he who had once re- 
marked: "If I were not an emperor, I should like to be a 
schoolteacher," found that he could not refuse. As it turned 

( 148 ) 

The Forty -Niner Who Abolished Congress 

out, it was fortunate that he accepted the invitation. For it 
was on the California campus that Dom Pedro was welcomed, 
for the first time since his arrival in the United States, by 
one of his own rank and station who would give him his 
best understanding of democracy. 

The ceremonies in the University of California assembly 
hall were about to begin when Dom Pedro, seated beside the 
institution's president and most learned professors, was sud- 
denly surprised by the approach of another guest, more royal, 
more regal, than himself. The visitor, a bearded, stocky, se- 
rious, middle-aged man, was attired in a black, high hat sur- 
mounted by a green ostrich-plume, a frayed, blue long-tailed 
coat replete with gold epaulets and brass buttons, a pair of 
outsized shoes slit at the sides, and a heavy saber dangling 
from his waist. Soberly he ascended the platform, and, though 
uninvited, took an empty seat near the dignitaries. The au- 
dience of students buzzed and giggled. Dom Pedro was seen 
to blink at the newcomer. Hastily an introduction was ef- 
fected and thus Dom Pedro, to his utter amazement, found 
himself exchanging formal courtesies with one who was de- 
scribed as "His Imperial Highness, Norton I, Emperor of the 
United States and Protector of Mexico." 

Though Norton's true identity was soon revealed to the 
Emperor, he was no less astonished. For of all the sights he 
would see and the men he would meet during his 9,ooo-mile 
journey through the United States the admirable water- 
supply system in Chicago, the appalling insane-asylum in St. 
Louis, the delightful dinner with Longfellow in Cambridge, 
the gracious interviews with President Grant, the visits to 
Mammoth Cave and Sing Sing Prison and the Centennial 
Exhibition in Philadelphia no one and nothing would prove 
more memorable than this chance acquaintance with North 
America's self-appointed Emperor. Norton I, as Dom Pedro 
would learn, had publicly abolished both houses of Congress 
and both major political parties, had printed his own bonds 
and levied his own taxes, and yet not only had been tolerated 

The Square Tegs 

by his more democratic Americans, but also had often been 
sheltered, fed, and clothed at their expense. In the person 
of this improbable being, Dom Pedro saw perhaps the truest 
representation of American democracy at work which he was 
to see in his entire three-month visit. 

Emperor Norton had lived fifty-seven years and reigned 
benevolently seventeen of them before he met, in the Bra- 
zilian ruler, the first and last royal personage he was to know 
in his lifetime. But unlike Dom Pedro, Emperor Norton was 
of plebeian stock. His father, John Norton, an English Jew, 
was a farmer. His mother, Sarah, was of humble parentage. 
Joshua Abraham Norton, the second of two sons, was born 
in London on February 4, 1819. His only relationship to 
royalty was that, at birth, he became a subject of George III. 

In 1820, when Joshua Norton was two, his family joined 
four thousand other English colonists in a pioneering migra- 
tion to Grahamstown, South Africa. There his father bought 
and tilled a farm, and eventually helped found Algoa Bay, 
now known as Port Elizabeth. By the time Joshua Norton 
was twenty, his father had expanded his interests to part 
ownership of a general store in Cape Town which specialized 
in ships' supplies. Of young Norton's African years we know 
little. He enlisted for a short term as a colonial soldier. He 
worked as a clerk in his father's store. When his father began 
to outfit vessels of his own, he took charge of a two-masted 
brigantine and in 1844 sailed it to Peru and Chile, where he 
lost money on the venture. 

When Joshua Norton was thirty his father followed his 
mother to an early grave. The business that Norton inherited 
proved of little value, and he soon liquidated it and sailed for 
Brazil, where he is thought to have made quick profits on 
several merchandising investments. Meanwhile, near the city 
of Sacramento in far-off California, a workman had discov- 
ered gold on Captain John Sutter's properties. Immediately 

( 150) 

The Forty-Niner Who Abolished Congress 

the great gold-rush was on, and almost a quarter of a mil- 
lion persons were on the way to California. Norton heard 
the sensational news in Brazil. Without roots, with a normal 
hunger for sudden wealth, he decided to participate in the 

With $40,000 in savings and inheritance in his trunk, Nor- 
ton boarded the small German schooner Franziska at Rio de 
Janeiro. He and six other passengers endured 101 monoto- 
nous, impatient days at sea. But on the bleak, cold Friday 
morning of November 23, 1849, their little vessel plodded 
past the Golden Gate and lay at anchor amid the numerous 
abandoned and neglected ships dotting San Francisco Bay. 

Norton, tall and imposing in his purple cape, joined his 
fellow passengers in a longboat and was rowed ashore at 
Montgomery Street, the very center of the business district. 
The sight that met his eyes as he proceeded into the boom 
town was unforgettable. Only a year before, San Francisco 
had been a sleepy village of several hundred inhabitants and 
fifty adobe huts. Overnight it had been transformed into a 
bustling, unruly, filthy Mecca for gold diggers. Canvas tents, 
rude lean-tos, wooden shanties, and brick hotels housed 
twenty thousand visitors. The muddy, winding streets, filled 
with rubbish, cluttered with unpacked merchandise, crowded 
with wagons pushing to the mines, were flanked by an in- 
credible variety of stores, brothels, warehouses, and saloons. 
In the jammed streets, raucously shoving and pushing, were 
not only native Americans, white, black, brown, and red, but 
also pigtailed Chinese, turbaned Hindus, serape-covered Span- 
iards, Australians, Malayans, Italians, Russians, and Scandi- 
navians. Amid the influx of foreigners the fastidious and very 
English Joshua Norton was hardly noticed at all. He located 
a hotel and signed the register, giving his occupation as "trav- 
eling merchant." 

If Norton intended to become a forty-niner, he soon 
enough sensed that El Dorado was more readily accessible in 
the business life of San Francisco than in the backbreaking 

The Square Pegs 

and precarious gold-fields of Upper California. As the popu- 
lation increased from 20,000 to 90,000, as the demands for 
food, clothing, construction material, and mining supplies 
grew louder, Norton realized that a fortune might be made 
by shrewd trading. But this was a risk even for an experienced 
businessman like himself. The commodity market was utterly 
unpredictable. Importing was a costly business. One's judg- 
ment had to be sound, for lack of storage space required 
immediate auctioning of goods. If a scarcity existed at the 
moment, tremendous profits were possible. If the market 
happened to be glutted, great losses were inevitable. Still, the 
population was growing, the need was insistent, and Joshua 
Norton decided to chance it. 

In less than two months Norton opened an office at 242 
Montgomery Street, overlooking the city's main thorough- 
fare, and hazarded his $40,000 in speculation. As a commis- 
sion agent he bought and sold, for himself and for others, 
mines, buildings, and extensive lots of real estate. Eventually 
he and a partner named Robertson built a huge store-and- 
warehouse on which "was painted "Joshua Norton & Com- 
pany." They imported coal, bricks, and beef, held their goods 
until they were in demand, and then unloaded at great gain. 
In May 1851 a ten-hour fire wiped out eighteen city blocks, 
the entire business district, and, of course, the wooden struc- 
ture of Joshua Norton & Company. Shortly after, having 
dismissed his partner, Norton erected a building of his own 
just one block from his old location. He dealt successfully in 
coal, tea, flour, coffee, and rice. In the end, his enthusiasm 
for rice was to lead to his financial downfall and his elevation 
to royalty. 

By early 1853 he had amassed a fortune of $250,000. Now 
he evolved a scheme that would make him even wealthier. 
As the owner of California's first rice mill he had been keenly 
aware of periods when the community suffered gaping short- 
ages of flour. He had seen the price of unhusked rice jump 

The Forty -Niner Who Abolished Congress 

from 4 cents a pound to 32. A shortage loomed again. China 
had banned exportation of rice to California, and San Fran- 
cisco's meager supply was rapidly dwindling. Norton deter- 
mined to corner the rice market. Aware that complete control 
would enable him to set his own price on this staple com- 
modity, he began to buy every kernel of rice in the vicinity. 
Then, to protect his immense holdings, he began to buy 
every shipment of rice that came to port. When a South 
American vessel, owned by three Peruvians named Ruiz, ar- 
rived with 200,000 pounds of rice, Norton absorbed the en- 
tire cargo for $25,000, of which sum he paid down $2,000 in 
cash. When other shipments followed, Norton absorbed these, 

Then, suddenly, it seemed that every nation was pouring 
rice into San Francisco. In less than a month, three more 
vessels arrived, all laden with barrels of rice, one of them 
carrying 250,000 pounds of it. Norton no longer possessed 
sufficient funds to absorb the flood and contain the price. 
He was obliged to allow these and other shipments to be 
auctioned on the open market. He had purchased his rice at 
13 cents a pound, and now he saw the commodity dip to 
8. It fell as low as 3 cents before he was able to dispose of 
his holdings. 

He was almost bankrupt. Swiftly his difficulties com- 
pounded. Late in 1853 another fire razed five hundred build- 
ings, among them Norton's new store-and-warehouse. He 
viewed the disaster, remarked one observer, "as a man dazed 
by a tremendous grief." Meanwhile, he still owed a balance 
of $23,000 to the three Peruvians. Arguing that the rice had 
been inferior in quality, he refused to pay. He was promptly 
sued, and after almost three years of nerve-racking legal dis- 
agreement a jury awarded the Peruvians $20,000 in damages. 
During those painful years, Norton halfheartedly tried to re- 
establish himself as a broker in gold dust, but the effort failed 
miserably. When he lost his lawsuit there was nothing to do 

( 153 ) 

The Square Pegs 

but to declare bankruptcy. In November 1856 his assets, 
worth $15,000, were disposed of by the sheriff, and his debts 
were listed in the district court as amounting to $55,811. 

He was only thirty-eight, but his mammoth failure seemed 
to deprive him of all energy and ambition. He wanted no 
more of commerce and competition. Injured in pride and 
pocket, his head filled with fancied persecutions, he withdrew 
to the privacy of his expensive room in the Tehama House 
to brood on the world's wrongs. When he could no longer 
afford the room he moved to a cheap boardinghouse and 
supported himself by working as a clerk for a Chinese rice 
company and by receiving some aid from the British con- 

Eventually he quit his job and retreated to his room to 
meditate. Loyal business acquaintances and fellow members 
of the Pacific Club visited him regularly. Though deeply de- 
pressed, Norton remained quite sane. In his hermitage he read 
considerably and conversed with his visitors, and with the 
passage of time his personal losses receded. His new worry, 
and obsession, was the troubled state of the Union. The Dred 
Scott case was in the news. The Lincoln-Douglas debates 
were being publicized. Tension between North and South 
was building up. Norton felt that war was inevitable unless 
stern measures were taken. A democracy, loose and ineffi- 
cient, could not cope with internal strife, he contended. Only 
the firm hand of monarchy, a monarchy such as England 
possessed, could guarantee peace. What America needed, Nor- 
ton concluded, was an autocratic ruler. So often did he ex- 
pound on this archaic argument, that eventually his callers 
began to refer to him, and address him, jestingly, as "His 
Gracious Highness" and "Emperor." And soon enough, he 
asked himself: why not? 

On the evening of September 17, 1859, ^ editors of the 
San Francisco Bulletin informed their readers that "a well- 
dressed and serious-looking man" had visited them and 
"quietly left the following document, which he respectfully 

( 154) 

The Forty -Niner Who Abolished Congress 

requested we -would examine and insert." The document fol- 

At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority 
of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, 
formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for 
the last $ years and 10 months past of San Francisco, Cali- 
fornia, declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these United 
States; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, 
do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different 
States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, 
on the ist day of February next, then and there to make such 
alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may amelio- 
rate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby 
cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our 
stability and integrity. 



Most historians who were to record the years of Norton's 
reign found it easiest to explain his ascension from business- 
man to monarch by stating that he had become "demented," 
a "mental derelict" because of his bankruptcy. There is no 
evidence that he was actually insane. While his distaste for 
business and his desire for attention led him to side-step re- 
ality, he was never completely out of touch with it. If many 
of his notions were fanciful, others were shrewd and sensible. 
Because his prosperity and happiness depended upon being 
noticed, he made himself noticed. And in his make-believe 
role he contrived to survive more comfortably than many 
who jeered him. Unable to contend with the pitfalls and 
pressures of the commercial world, he found a new profes- 
sion and created half a world of his own. Like Napoleon 
Bonaparte (whom he detested), he crowned himself and es- 
tablished himself in a highly uncompetitive field. Thus, in 
1859, encouraged by friends who could not believe he was 

( 155 ) 

The Square fegs 

serious, Joshua Abraham Norton, deposed businessman, 
emerged from seclusion as Emperor of the United States by 
popular demand. 

Shortly after his astounding proclamation in the Bulletin, 
he appeared in public for the first time as Emperor. Gone 
were the somber, conventional trappings of the man of com- 
merce. In their place was an outfit distinctly military. From 
the local Presidio, Norton had salvaged an officer's second- 
hand uniform. It was light blue, and trimmed with gold 
epaulets and brass buttons. On his head he wore a general's 
cap decorated in red, which he later discarded for the tall 
beaver-hat with the feather. In his buttonhole he wore a 
rose, and at his side a heavy saber acquired from a black- 
smith. His feet were shod in navy boots cut open at the 
sides to give his corns more freedom. In fair weather he 
sported a walking stick, in rainy weather a colorful Chinese 

His first appearance in the streets of San Francisco created 
a gratifying sensation. He moved swiftly to consolidate this 
good will. Less than a month after his initial proclamation, 
another appeared in the Bulletin. The Emperor decreed that 
since "fraud and corruption prevent a fair and proper ex- 
pression of the public voice," the moment had come for 
drastic action. Therefore, "We do hereby abolish Congress, 
and it is hereby abolished." When Washington took no notice 
Norton was incensed. A supplementary proclamation was 
made public. "We do hereby Order and Direct Major Gen- 
eral Scott, the Commander-in-Chief of our Armies, immedi- 
ately on receipt of this our Decree, to proceed with a suit- 
able force and clear the Halls of Congress." Lest this was 
not clear, there was one more document to astound the citi- 
zenry. "We, Norton I, by the grace of God and the National 
Will, Emperor of the Thirty-three States and the multitude 
of Territories of the United States, do hereby dissolve the 
Republic of the United States of North America." With the 
suggestion that the governors of the states maintain order 


The Forty-Niner Who Abolished Congress 

until he had taken over full control, Norton abolished "the 
Democratic and Republican parties" and prepared to stage 
his long-announced convention. 

The convention was scheduled for February i, 1860, in 
San Francisco's Musical Hall. A week before the meeting the 
hall burned to the ground. Undismayed, Norton announced 
that the convention would proceed four days later at the 
Assembly Hall. The Bulletin predicted a full house, and 
thought the meeting would "be a great day for California." 
At the last moment, either because he lacked money to pay 
for the hall or had forgotten to notify delegates, the con- 
vention was canceled. Nevertheless, Norton permitted his 
long-prepared opening address of welcome to be made pub- 

"At the request of a large majority of the citizens of the 
Republic, you have been directed to assemble here, this day, 
to ratify, alter, or reject, a proposed alteration of the form 
of your government. An alteration is demanded and insisted 
upon, or We should not have been entrusted with the au- 
thority to have called a Convention of the Nation for that 
object. . . ." 

With the convention out of the way and his authority still 
unopposed, the Emperor turned to the very real and immedi- 
ate problem of the privy purse. To rule a great nation or, 
at least, to survive personally required a considerable sum 
of money. Norton set his mind to this grim task at once. At 
first he wrote checks on banks in which he had no accounts. 
This indiscretion might have shortened his reign had not the 
sums been extremely modest and the bankers his old friends. 
Soon enough he hit upon a happier expedient. He conceived 
the idea of issuing "Bonds of the Empire." These came off 
the presses of Charles A. Murdock without charge, the 
printer having been promised the post of Chancellor of the 
Exchequer in return for the favor. Each bond, illustrated 
with a portrait of the Emperor as well as with reproductions 
of the Stars and Stripes and the California State Seal, was 

( 157) 

The Square Pegs 

worth fifty cents. In twenty years the buyer was promised 
the repayment of his fifty cents with 5 per cent interest. 

When the bonds did not suffice to meet his vast royal ex- 
penditures Norton was forced to resort to a system of 
taxation. Disdaining the bureaucracy of a revenue depart- 
ment, he both levied and collected the taxes himself. In an 
account book he noted the names of all prominent business 
houses and the amounts they were to be assessed monthly for 
the advantages of his rule. Regularly, in full court attire and 
with account book in hand, he called upon his subjects. 
Struggling shopkeepers got off with twenty-five cents; 
wealthy bankers were commanded to pay as much as three 
dollars. Resistance was rare, and on a profitable day the 
monarch would collect as much as twenty-five dollars. Some- 
times, when he had a great project in mind, a project to pro- 
mote national harmony or world peace, he would discuss a 
loan, at 4 per cent, for millions of dollars. On these occa- 
sions, according to the Alta, he would confront a friend and 
"attempt to negotiate a loan of several hundred million dol- 
lars, and depart perfectly contented with a two- or four-bit 

Yet, for all of his taxation and promissory notes, he could 
not have maintained his high position without insisting upon 
his royal prerogative of free rent, food, clothing, and trans- 
portation. During the greater part of his twenty-one-year 
reign, he lived in a single, musty room at the rear of the 
Eureka Lodging House. The rent was fifty cents a day, and 
it was paid by the Occidental Lodge F. & A. M., which the 
Emperor had helped found in more prosperous times. The 
interior of this, his court, he had furnished himself. It con- 
sisted of a chair and table set on a faded rug, an outdoor 
camping-cot, a pitcher and basin resting on a broken stand. 
On one wall was a portrait of the Empress Eugenie. On 
another wall, hanging from common nails, was his wardrobe. 
"There were many hats," reported a newspaperman who 
visited the room. "There was first an old stove-pipe hat 

( 158 ) 

The Forty -Niner Who Abolished Congress 

resting side by side with a little plaster cast of himself on the 
table. Directly above, hanging in a row on the wall, were 
three more the first a derby hat. Next to this hung an old 
army cap bound with red lace, and next in line a regulation 
army hat, also trimmed with red, and which had apparently 
once adorned the cranium of a martial bandmaster, as was 
attested by the lyre which graced its front. On the wall op- 
posite, over the bed, hung the well-known sword of the 
Emperor, and in the corner, against the bed, stood four canes, 
the gift of devoted 'subjects.' " 

His clothes were cared for by a Chinese laundryman, and 
when the Chinese refused to accept imperial bonds as pay- 
ment, Norton's landlord assumed the expense. When his uni- 
forms wore thin Norton approached San Francisco's leading 
men's shops for replacements. They were usually supplied. 
Once, when his attire was again threadbare, he went directly 
to his followers. u Know ye whom it may concern that I, 
Norton I ... have heard serious complaints from our ad- 
herents and all that our imperial wardrobe is a national dis- 
grace. . . . We warn those whose duty it is to attend to 
these affairs that their scalps are in danger if our said need is 
unheeded." The said need did not go unheeded long. Rather 
than have their beloved monarch's appearance bring dis- 
grace upon his capital city, the San Francisco Board of Su- 
pervisors unanimously voted to outfit him at public expense. 

The Emperor always ate out. Though his midday meals 
usually taken at the free-lunch corner of a neighborhood bar 
were light, he ate his dinners in the most fashionable res- 
taurants. Though he always announced his rank upon being 
seated, he was known everywhere and never charged. He 
partook of full-course meals, was not shy about returning 
an entree improperly prepared, and frequently chastised wait- 
ers for inadequate service. 

While he never traveled to the far-flung corners of his 
Empire, he was much in evidence about his capital city. He 
rode the municipal streetcars without cost. He was grateful 

( 159 ) 

The Square Pegs 

for this free passage, but not beholden. He felt it his due. 
Once when a fellow passenger, an elderly lady, could not 
find her five-cent fare, Norton advised the conductor to 
move on. "Let her," he said, "be a guest of the Empire." On 
his occasional trips to Sacramento and other northern cities, 
his railroad or steamboat berths were occupied with the com- 
pliments of their owners. 

Thus, unencumbered by the normal struggle for existence, 
Emperor Norton was able fully to enjoy the advantages of 
his lofty post. Day followed day through the years in placid 
parade. By force of habit he rose late, permitted a worshipful 
fellow boarder to help dress him, and then sauntered to the 
nearest bar for a light repast. In early afternoon he set out 
on foot to survey his happy dominion, often accompanied 
by wide-eyed children and almost always by two faithful 
dogs. These aged canines, city characters, were not of aristo- 
cratic pedigree. One, a black mongrel, was known as Bum- 
mer for his habit of cadging meals at taverns. The other, a 
dark-yellow collie, was known as Lazarus because he had 
risen to life after a near fatal fight. When Bummer was kicked 
to death by a drunk and Lazarus was poisoned, the San 
Francisco press published obituaries and the Virginia City 
newspaper carried a touching farewell by Mark Twain. 
Though reams of sentimental copy were to be produced 
about the Emperor's attachment to the dogs, these accounts 
were, for the most part, unauthorized and inaccurate. Norton 
had little affection for Bummer and Lazarus, but graciously 
allowed them to become part of his daily retinue. 

On his strolls, accepting the bows and curtsies of his sub- 
jects, the Emperor inspected civic improvements, chatted 
with pretty girls (he had an eye for a well-turned ankle, but 
remained a bachelor without heir), discussed law enforce- 
ment with police, looked in on delinquent merchants, paused 
to relax at chess in the Mechanic's Library, attended a dif- 
ferent church every week (so that there would be no wran- 

( 160) 

The Forty-Niner Who Abolished Congress 

gling for his favor among varied denominations), and con- 
stantly made his presence felt at all forums and political 

During one election campaign, when a candidate for the 
Senate rose to appeal for votes, Norton commanded him to 
desist and be seated. "You don't have to speak further," Nor- 
ton advised him, "because I hereby appoint you United 
States senator." 

On another occasion, as Allen Stanley Lane has related in 
his biography, Emperor Norton, he participated in a discus- 
sion of free love sponsored by the Lyceum of Self Culture. 
Upon being introduced, he remarked somewhat enigmatically 
that 82 per cent of all infants born in America were de- 
stroyed. "Take twenty-five square miles of land," he con- 
tinued. "Let it rain on that land twenty-four hours. Then 
turn every one of those drops of water into a baby. How 
many babies would there be?" It was not a rhetorical ques- 
tion. He demanded an answer. The dazed audience had none 
to give. Offended by this dim-witted reaction, Norton de- 
scended from the platform and marched out of the meeting. 

During evenings, Norton was sometimes in evidence at the 
city's playhouses. When he made his grand entrance minutes 
before curtain time and strode majestically to the orchestra 
seat reserved for him by the management, the audience came 
to its feet en masse in silent tribute. But more often his eve- 
nings were spent contemplating the problems of Empire. In 
his quiet room, far from the temptations of frivolity, he 
would sit down to his wooden table, take up his pen, and 
scratch out his historic proclamations. 

At an early date in his reign he decided that "Mexico is 
entirely unfit to manage her own affairs, the country being 
in a constant state of internal distraction, anarchy and civil 
war." To defend the peons from the avaricious Napoleon III, 
Norton appointed himself official "Protector of Mexico." 
But after the brutal execution of Maximilian, Norton with- 

( 161 ) 

The Square Pegs 

drew his championship of the proletariat. A people who could 
murder an Emperor dangerous precedent was too "unset- 
tled" to deserve his protection. 

He tempered justice with mercy. When John Brown was 
tried, Norton decided that "Brown was insane" and should 
not be harshly judged. Learning that, despite his opinion, 
Brown had been hanged, Norton summarily discharged the 
Governor of Virginia from his office. During the Civil War 
he ordered Lincoln and Jefferson Davis to come to him in 
California so that he might mediate the dispute. When they 
ignored his imperial command he went over their heads to 
Grant and Lee. During the Franco-Prussian War he sided 
with the Prussians and gave Bismarck constant advice. When 
the war ended he took credit for the peace. Some of his de- 
crees were translated into German and appeared in the Aus- 
trian press. One ill-informed Vienna railroad employee ac- 
tually wrote Norton in 1871, requesting the post of American 
ambassador to Austria. 

Of all of the Emperor's decrees, only one was to reflect 
his remarkable vision. For it was Norton who first suggested, 
in print, the San Francisco Bay bridge. Two problems, one 
personal and one municipal, motivated his inspiration. He 
enjoyed visiting Oakland, across the bay, but found the jour- 
ney by ferry tedious and time consuming. Only a bridge 
could speed his commuting. Too, he was troubled by the 
rivalry between San Francisco and Oakland, each commu- 
nity wishing to become the terminus of the new Central 
Pacific Railroad. It was felt that the city failing to win the 
railroad terminal would be seriously deprived of commerce 
and population. Norton realized that a bridge might solve 
the problem. On August 18, 1869, he offered the Oakland 
Daily News the following proclamation: 

"We, Norton I, Dei Gratia, Emperor of the United States 
and protector of Mexico, do order and direct, first, that 
Oakland shall be the coast termination of the Central Pacific 
Railroad; secondly, that a suspension bridge be constructed 

( 162 > 

The Forty-Niner Who Abolished Congress 

from the improvements lately ordered by our royal decree 
at Oakland Point to Yerba Buena. . . ." 

Norton's venture into the technical field of engineering 
was met with cries of u crazy," but little more than a half 
century later, the bridge was constructed, and it spanned the 
bay just as Norton had suggested. 

The great majority of his subjects appreciated his selfless 
interest in their welfare. Even the celebrated showed him 
marked respect. When Mark Twain returned in 1869 from 
the trip to the Mediterranean which was to produce Innocents 
Abroad, he announced that were he to make another such 
"pleasure excursion around the world and to the Holy Land" 
and had he "the privilege of making out her passenger list," 
he would include among his favorite companions Bret Harte, 
the elder James Coffroth and Norton I of San Francisco. 

In 1892, when Robert Louis Stevenson and his stepson, 
Lloyd Osbourne, published their novel The Wrecker, much 
of which was laid in San Francisco, they paid tribute to the 
city by recounting its treatment of a favorite son: 

"Of all our visitors, I believe I preferred Emperor Norton; 
the very mention of whose name reminds me I am doing 
scanty justice to the folks of San Francisco. In what other 
city would a harmless madman who supposed himself em- 
peror of the two Americas have been so fostered and en- 
couraged? Where else would even the people of the streets 
have respected the poor soul's illusion? Where else would 
bankers and merchants have received his visits, cashed his 
cheques, and submitted to his small assessments? Where else 
would he have been suffered to attend and address the ex- 
hibition days of schools and colleges? where else, in God's 
green earth, have taken his pick of restaurants, ransacked the 
bill of fare, and departed scathless? They tell me he was even 
an exacting patron, threatening to withdraw his custom when 
dissatisfied; and I can believe it, for his face wore an expres- 
sion distinctly gastronomical." 

Though "the imperial government" of Norton I was more 

The Square Pegs 

indulgent than most autocracies, there were infrequent evi- 
dences of Use majeste and rebellion through the years. Once, 
at Petaluma, California, the Emperor received telegrams of an 
inciting nature from Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. 
Again, there were several cables signed Victoria Regina, in- 
quiring after his health and hinting at marriage. These and 
similar communications perpetrated by practical jokers 
plagued the Emperor throughout his reign. This type of ir- 
reverence toward royalty even infected the State Assembly 
at Sacramento. In January 1872 a pension bill in favor of 
General John A. Sutter was passed over vigorous opposition. 
In an effort to ridicule its passage, the enemies of the Sutter 
bill proposed one of their own: "The sum of two hundred 
and fifty dollars per month is hereby appropriated out of 
any funds in the State Treasury not otherwise appropriated 
for the relief of Emperor Norton the First. . . ." During 
the heated debate that followed, one Sutter supporter dared 
inquire: "Who is Emperor Norton the First, I would like to 
know?" Norton determined to answer the unbelievable ques- 
tion by making a personal appearance. Within a few days he 
charged into Sacramento, and began buttonholing legisla- 
tors, explaining why they must support his monthly pension. 
But he was too late. His bill was already lost in the files of 
the Committee on Claims. 

Most resistance to Norton came in the form of obstruc- 
tion, and these rare flare-ups were most always the results of 
ignorance. On one train journey to Sacramento the Emperor 
made his way to the dining car for his evening meal. A new 
waiter thought his appearance suspect and refused to fill his 
order. The Emperor contained his temper and repeated his 
choice of menu. The waiter doubted that he had the money 
to pay for it. Money? The Emperor was apoplectic. He 
pounded the table with his cane, commanding the waiter to 
serve him before he disenfranchised the entire railroad. For- 
tunately a party of San Franciscans at a nearby table wit- 
nessed the scene and agreed that their ruler must be obliged 

The Forty-Niner Who Abolished Congress 

at their expense. When news of this terrible incident reached 
the main offices of the Central Pacific the next day, the 
directors were hasty to make amends. They mailed Norton a 
lifetime free pass for use on Pullman or diner on any of their 
California trains. 

Even more barbaric was the effort, on the night of Jan- 
uary 21, 1867, to unseat him from his throne. A newly ap- 
pointed and overzealous young policeman named Barbier 
arrested the Emperor on a charge of vagrancy. When the 
sputtering Norton revealed that he possessed almost five dol- 
lars, the officer revised his charge to insanity. Norton was 
dragged to the nearest station house and forced into a cell to 
await tests by the city alienist. The moment the Chief of 
Police heard of the mistaken arrest he personally released his 
monarch with profuse apology. The newspapers and periodi- 
cals of the West, in a single voice, denounced the outrage 
and extolled his reign. "Since he has worn the Imperial pur- 
ple," said the Alta, "he has shed no blood, robbed nobody, 
and despoiled the country of no one, which is more than can 
be said of any of his fellows in that line." 

As a new generation of loyal subjects grew to maturity 
they came to regard Emperor Norton as a romantic fixture. 
Their fathers had known his antecedents, but they themselves 
had not. And so they wondered, and conjectured fanciful be- 
ginnings, and embellished them in their gossip. To some he 
was a bastard son of Napoleon III or William IV of Eng- 
land. To others he was an heir discarded by George III. 
Norton heard these whisperings, and, in his dotage, did not 
deny them. An old friend who had known him in South 
Africa came visiting and asked him "to tell . . . how it was 
that he came by the title of Emperor, and why he wore the 
uniform he then had on." Norton, after extracting a promise 
of secrecy, confided that he had been born of French roy- 
alty, and sent to South Africa as a measure of safety, with 
one John Norton as his guardian. 

On December 31, 1879, he published a proclamation her- 

( 165 ) 

The Square Pegs 

aiding the New Year and offering up "prayers of thanksgiv- 
ing to Almighty God." It was his last proclamation. On the 
early evening of January 8, 1880, he went out in a drizzle to 
attend a debate at the Academy of Sciences. He was in full 
uniform and in fine mood. At the age of sixty-two he walked 
still with vigorous stride. Those who saw him saw what 
Stevenson and Osbourne had seen "a portly, rather flabby 
man, with the face of a gentleman, rendered unspeakably 
pathetic and absurd by the great sabre at his side and the 
peacock's feather in his hat." As he approached the building 
where the debate was to be held, he suddenly stumbled and 
collapsed to the sidewalk. A passer-by ran to his aid and 
propped him up while shouting to others for a carriage. 
Norton was unconscious when he was taken into the receiv- 
ing hospital, and minutes later he was dead. 

In the morgue they emptied his pockets, and the contents 
were more eloquent than any biography: three dollars in 
silver coins, a two-dollar-and-fifty-cent gold piece, a five- 
franc note dated 1828, a sheaf of cables signed by Disraeli, 
Parnell, Diaz, and the Tsar of Russia, a certificate giving him 
ownership of 98,200 shares of stock in a mine, and several 
copies of his own imperial script. "Le Roi Est Mort" was 
the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle. 

His funeral was the funeral of an Emperor. His old friends 
and most loyal subjects, the members of the Pacific Club, 
defrayed the $10,000 expenses involved in what became a 
day of municipal mourning. Eight thousand men and two 
thousand women and children followed his rosewood casket 
to the Masonic Cemetery, beneath Lone Mountain, where he 
was affectionately put to rest. 

Fifty-four years later, the Masonic Cemetery was one of 
several burial grounds abolished by law. The grandsons of 
those who had first buried their Emperor now members 
of the Pacific Union Club undertook the final task of re- 
burial. The Emperor's remains were transferred to the Wood- 
lawn Cemetery, just across the county line, and a marble 

( 166 ) 

The Forty-Niner Who Abolished Congress 

tombstone was placed on the grave. On June 30, 1934, after 
the San Francisco Band had played, after infantrymen had 
exploded three volleys into the sky, after an American Legion 
bugler had finished taps, the inscription on the gravestone 
was unveiled: "Norton I ... Emperor of the United States 
and Protector of Mexico . . . Joshua A. Norton 1819- 

His Majesty would have been mightily pleased, for history 
had remembered him, and his adopted homeland had recog- 
nized him at last. 

( 167 ) 


The Lady Who 
Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

"Condemned to refer the origin of these works to 
the vulgar, illiterate man who kept the theatre 
where they were first exhibited . . . how could 
any one dare to see what is really in them?" 


On April 25, 1616, an entry was made in the Stratford 
on Avon parish register of the burial of "will Shakspere 
gent." Across the flagstone placed over his wooden coffin, 
within the chancel of the church, was engraved a verse which, 
according to local tradition, had come from the pen of the 

Good frend for Jesus 7 sake forbeare 
To digg the dust enchased heare: 
Bleste be the man that spares these stones 
And curst be he that moves my bones. 

Seven years after the actor-playwright had been laid to 
rest, there appeared in London a volume entitled Mr. William 
Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. Published ac- 
cording to the True Originall Copies. This folio, edited and 
sponsored by Edward Blount, John Smithweeke, and William 
Aspley, and printed by William and Isaac Jaggard, was dedi- 
cated to the Earl of Pembroke and his brother the Earl of 

( 168 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

Montgomery and "To the great Variety of Readers." The 
dedication, composed by two actors who had known Shake- 
speare well, explained that the book had been published "onely 
to keepe the memory of so worthy a Friend, & Fellow aliue, 
as was our SHAKESPEARE. . . ." 

This was the first collected publication of all but one of 
Shakespeare's thirty-seven plays. Eighteen had never been 
printed before. The other eighteen had appeared individually 
in earlier authorized or pirated quarto editions, seventeen of 
them having been published during Shakespeare's lifetime. 

With the distribution of the First Folio, the playwright's 
genius was at last on full display for his time and all posterity. 
For more than a century after Shakespeare's burial and his 
resurrection in the Jaggard volume, his authorship of the im- 
mortal works was accepted without question or doubt. No 
one disturbed Shakespeare's bones, literally or literarily, and 
no one directly disputed his authorship of the plays attributed 
to him in the First Folio. Then, gradually, the rumblings of 
surmise and suspicion began, instigated by scholars, critics, 
ordinary readers, and eccentrics who could not relate the 
brilliance and variety of Shakespeare's output to the few pro- 
saic facts known of his middle-class life. 

The first dissent was heard in 1771, when Herbert Law- 
rence, a surgeon and friend of David Garrick, issued a book 
entitled The Life md Adventures of Common Sense: an His- 
torical Allegory. Lawrence contended that Shakespeare^ had 
plagiarized much of his best writing from a certain Common- 
place Book. The extremely "pleasant and entertaining" com- 
position in the Commonplace Book had been audaciously ap- 
propriated by "a Person belonging to the Playhouse; this Man 
was a profligate in his Youth, and, as some say, had been a 
deer-stealer. . . . With these Materials, and with good Parts 
of his own, he commenced Play- Writing, how he succeeded 
is needless to say, when I tell the Reader that his name was 
Shakespear." Though Lawrence's effort went into two Eng- 
lish editions, and was translated and published in France and 

( 169 ) 

The Square Tegs 

Switzerland, his caustic remarks on the Bard caused little sen- 

The first half of the nineteenth century provided two mild 
doubters and one vigorous dissenter. In 1 8 1 1 Samuel Taylor 
Coleridge delivered a series of lectures on Milton and Shake- 
speare (with an admitted preference for Milton) at the Phil- 
osophical Society in London. Discussing the plays of Shake- 
speare, he was incredulous that "works of such character 
should have proceeded from a man whose life was like that 
attributed to Shakespeare. . . . Are we to have miracles in 
sport? Does God choose idiots by whom to convey divine 
truths to men?" Coleridge was more willing to accept Shake- 
speare as thespian than as creator. "It is worth having died two 
hundred years ago to have heard Shakespeare deliver a single 
line. He must have been a great actor." 

Twenty-six years later, a future prime minister of England, 
Benjamin Disraeli, announced his misgivings more indirectly. 
In his eighth novel, Venetia, brought out the year he finally 
won a Parliamentary seat, he had a fictional character re- 
mark: "And who is Shakespeare? We know as much of him 
as Homer. Did he write half the plays attributed to him? Did 
he ever write a single whole play? I doubt it." 

However, .the liveliest assault on Shakespeare's authorship 
occurred in New York during 1848. A book bearing the un- 
likely title of The Romance of Yachting, by Joseph C. Hart, 
belabored the Bard mercilessly. Hart's narrative cheerfully re- 
counted his own adventures while on a sailing voyage to 
Spain. The sea change apparently worked wonders on his 
contemplative processes. En route he thought deeply, and 
when he came to record the physical highlights of his journey, 
he recorded also his varied meditations on the wrongs of civ- 
ilization. One of his meditations, to which he devoted thirty- 
five pages, reflected his suspicions that Shakespeare as author 
was an impostor. "He was not the mate of the literary char- 
acters of the day," Hart wrote, "and none knew it better than 
himself. It is a fraud upon the world to thrust his surrepti- 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

tious fame upon us. He had none that was worthy of being 
transmitted. The inquiry will be, 'who 'were the able literary 
men who wrote the dramas imputed to him?" 

These isolated voices were heard by very few. But the few 
who heard them had a question of their own: if William 
Shakespeare had not written the thirty-six plays in the First 
Folio, who had written them? Lawrence had named a little- 
known book as their source. Coleridge and Disraeli had cred- 
ited no one. Hart had, in passing, suggested Sir Francis Bacon. 
No real case had been made for any claimant to Shakespeare's 
place. From 1771 to 1852 the doubters had their nagging 
doubts and little else. But in 1852, with the emergence of a 
neurotic New England spinster named Delia Salter Bacon, 
the doubters suddenly had not one claimant, but several to 
Shakespeare's place. 

Miss Bacon's livelihood came from teaching and lecturing 
to women on history and literature. For years she had been 
deeply immersed in the writings of the Elizabethan period, 
and her specialty was Shakespeare. The more she read of 
Shakespeare, the more she was troubled. "There was no man, 
dead or alive, that really on the whole gave me so much cause 
of offense with his contradictions," she once confessed in a 
letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne. "He appeared to be such a 
standing disgrace to genius and learning, that I had not the 
heart to ask anybody to study anything." 

She came to think of Shakespeare, and eventually speak of 
him and write of him, as "Will the Jester" and "that Player" 
and "that booby" and "Lord Leicester's groom." She could 
not reconcile the deep philosophy and daring statesmanship 
she found in his plays with the "vulgar, illiterate . . . deer- 
poacher" who had been advertised as their author. With grow- 
ing certainty she began to feel that Shakespeare had not writ- 
t$n the plays credited to him, that his name had been bor- 
rowed to mask the identity of another. But what other? And 
why the elaborate masquerade? 

She scanned the giants of the era, their activities, their writ- 

The Square Pegs 

ings, and suddenly, blindingly, the truth stood revealed. The 
plays that bore Shakespeare's name had been written in secret 
by a syndicate of creative men with a common purpose. The 
syndicate, ishe decided, consisted of Sir Francis Bacon (no an- 
cestor of hers), Sir Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser, and 
several other "high-born wits and poets." These men were 
idealists and revolutionists. They possessed dangerous demo- 
cratic ideas in a day when the divine right of kings and queens 
went unchallenged. Eager to promote liberty, equality, and 
justice, these men sought to propagandize their progressive 
views through popular plays performed for the masses. 

This was Miss Bacon's startling, highly imaginative proposi- 
tion. She did not announce it to the world at once. The news 
would be delayed four years while she reinforced her argu- 
ment. But by 1852 it had become definite in her mind, and 
she could not resist circulating it among her students, her 
friends, and private audiences. 

In that crucial year she was on the genteel lecture-circuit, 
addressing groups of ladies and their daughters in the better 
homes of New Haven, Boston, and Cambridge. The first re- 
corded instance of her obsession with her new non-Shake- 
spearean authorship theory dates from her Cambridge talks. 
A group of fine ladies had purchased tickets to attend Miss 
Bacon's lectures, first in the Brattle house and then in the par- 
lor of the Farrar residence. Mrs. Eliza Farrar, married to a 
professor of mathematics at Harvard, and author of juvenile 
"books, was responsible for Miss Bacon's appearance, and 
would later recall the impression it made. 

Speaking without notes, Miss Bacon dwelt on ancient his- 
tory and dramatized her account by means of pictures and 
maps. "In these she brought down her history to the time of 
the birth of Christ," wrote Mrs. Farrar in Recollections of 
Seventy Years, "and I can never forget how clear she made 
it to us that the world was only then made fit for the advent 
of Jesus. She ended with a fine climax that was quite thrill- 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare' 's Bones 

At the conclusion of one such lecture, Mrs. Farrar re- 
membered, several ladies lingered behind to have tea with 
Miss Bacon and to chat informally. During the conversation. 
Miss Bacon mentioned a desire to visit England to search for 
proofs of her theory. Someone asked, with innocent curiosity, 
what theory Miss Bacon wished to substantiate. And imme- 
diately Miss Bacon was off in a bitter harangue against the 
" vulgar, illiterate" Shakespeare. Her listeners recoiled at the 
blasphemy, and Mrs. Farrar refused to encourage her pro- 
tegee to discuss the subject further. Nevertheless, at every 
opportunity Miss Bacon continued to discuss it, until mention 
of Shakespeare became taboo among her friends. According 
to Mrs. Farrar, even Miss Bacon's hostess was forced to "put 
her copy of his works out of sight, and never allowed her to 
converse with her on this, her favorite subject." 

One person, however, who met her in Cambridge and 
heard her discuss Shakespeare did not change the subject, but 
rather encouraged her and drew her out. Ralph Waldo Emer- 
son in his forty-ninth year was much absorbed by the anti- 
slavery movement and occupied with speaking against the 
Fugitive Slave Law. But only four years before, in England, 
he had given some lectures entitled "Shakespeare," and he 
could still be interested by any academic debate on the Bard, 
In his journal for Wednesday, May 19, 1852, he wrote: 

"I saw Miss Delia Bacon, at Cambridge, at the house of 
Mrs. Becker, and conversed with her on the subject of Shak- 
speare. Miss Bacon thinks that a key will yet be found to 
Shakspeare's interior sense; that some key to his secret may 
yet be discovered at Stratford, and I fancy, thinks the famous 
epitaph, 'Good friend, for Jesus 5 sake forbear,' protects some 
explanation of it. Her skepticism in regard to the authorship 
goes beyond the skepticism of Wolf in regard to Homer, or 
Niebuhr to Latin history." 

Apparently Emerson had shown sufficient sympathy for 
Miss Bacon's ideas to invite her to expound them further. 
Three weeks after their meeting, when Emerson had returned 

( 173 ) 

The Square Pegs 

to Concord and while Miss Bacon remained in Cambridge, 
she sent him what she called a "voluminous note ... on this 
subject." Her outline stressed Sir Francis Bacon rather than 
a syndicate of writers as really Shakespeare, and she suggested 
publicizing her theory in print. Emerson was impressed. On 
June 12, 1852, he replied at some length: "I am deeply grati- 
fied to observe the power of statement and the adequateness 
to the problem, which this sketch of your argument evinces. 
Indeed, I value these fine weapons far above any special use 
they may be put to. And you will have need of enchanted 
instruments, nay, alchemy itself, to melt into one identity 
these two reputations (shall I call them?) the poet and the 
statesman, both hitherto solid historical figures." 

Emerson thought that a magazine article, followed by a 
book, would best bring Miss Bacon's ideas before the public. 
He offered to assist her in securing publication. Miss Bacon 
was delighted and grateful, and she told Emerson: "Confirma- 
tions of my theory, which I did not expect to find on this 
side of the water, have turned up since my last communica- 
tion to you. ... Be assured, dear sir, there is no possibility 
of a doubt as to the main points of my theory. . . ." 

Yet there must have been some tiny doubt. For the English 
trip had crystallized in Miss Bacon's mind as the necessary 
climax to her researches. She did not wish to set her ideas 
down on paper or publish them until she had visited St. Al- 
ban's, where Sir Francis Bacon had once lived, or until she 
had examined the Shakespeare collections in the British Mu- 
seum, or until she had personally lifted the flagstone off 
Shakespeare's grave in the Stratford on Avon church and 
searched about his coffin for documents that might fully sub- 
stantiate her case. She told Emerson that she must go to Eng- 
land for a year, no more, and at once he rallied to her cause. 

She required contacts and money. Emerson was instru- 
mental in helping her to obtain both. He supplied her with 
letters of introduction, notably one to his old friend Thomas 

( 174 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

Carlyle. As to the financing of the English expedition, Emer- 
son wrote to Hawthorne's sister-in-law, Elizabeth Peabody, 
and asked that prominent educator if she could assist in ob- 
taining magazine serialization of Miss Bacon's projected book. 
"I can really think of nothing that could give such eclat to a 
magazine as this brilliant paradox." In short order the pages of 
Putnam's Magazine were opened to Miss Bacon for a series 
of articles to be drawn from her book. This gave promise of 
considerable income, but still it was not enough. 

Emerson had one more idea. Miss Bacon would soon be in 
New York for a series of lectures. He suggested that she call 
upon an old friend of his, Charles Butler, who was wealthy, 
well-read, and fascinated by anything bizarre. Emerson ar- 
ranged the meeting, and Miss Bacon called upon Butler. Like 
Emerson, Butler was won over. He would be her patron. If 
she must go to England, he would gladly finance the passage 
and support her for half a year. 

On May 14, 1853, Delia Bacon boarded the steamer Pacific 
in New York harbor, and ten days later she docked in Liver- 
pool, ready for the showdown with "that Player" who had, 
so long ago, warned such as she that they would be "curst" 
if they moved his bones. 

How well she would move those bones, even she could not 
know. For by the time she was forced to leave England four 
years later, she had initiated a heresy in literature, a contro- 
versy in academic circles that would persist generation after 
generation, that persists even today after more than a cen- 

When she disembarked from her steamer at Liverpool on 
May 24, 1853, she had little realization of the din her visit 
would create in future years. She knew only the gnawing im- 
mediacy of her mission: to regain for honorable and brilliant 
men Bacon, Raleigh, Spenser, and their associates the ac- 
claim that was rightfully theirs, but had been usurped, albeit 
unwittingly, by an unlettered actor who lay at rest beneath 

( 175 ) 

The Square Pegs 

the floor of a village church, but who soon enough would 
rest no more. 

Delia Salter Bacon's monomania was cast in the first fifteen 
years of her life. Her father, the Reverend David Bacon, was 
a descendant of an early Puritan who had once held military 
rank in England. He himself was made of the same sturdy 
stuif. Raised on a Connecticut farm, he became a fanatical 
Congregationalist clergyman. Turning his eyes westward, he 
saw his life's work. Accompanied by his adoring, delicate 
eighteen-year-old bride, Alice Parks Bacon, he headed into 
the wilderness and for five years preached to uninterested 
redskins in Detroit, Mackinac, and settlements in the back 

His lack of success in converting savages to Christ brought 
on a crisis. Church funds were withheld, and he was left 
stranded. He found himself in the area of Ohio's Western 
Reserve, and there, faced with need to make a decision, he was 
divinely inspired. He realized his real mission: to establish a 
holy community where Eastern immigrants might support 
themselves in an atmosphere both devout and pure. 

The word from on high was enough. He promptly pur- 
chased 12,000 acres of the richest forest land in the vicinity. 
Having no cash, he bought on credit. As he busied himself in 
constructing his own log cabin and subdividing his acres into 
smaller farm tracts, he corresponded with Congregationalist 
families in the East who wanted to move to Ohio and dwell 
in piety with their Reverend. 

He called his religious Utopia Tallmadge, and in this holy 
town, in the confines of the log cabin he had built, a girl 
whom he christened Delia Salter Bacon was born on February 
2, 1811. There had been four children before her, and there 
would be one after her, but Delia alone would be infected by 
her father's fanaticism. 

The burden of his growing family weighed heavily on 
David Bacon as he awaited the settlers who would relieve 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

him of his indebtedness and fulfill his dream of a heaven on 
earth. But in short months his dream was shattered by a Con- 
gressional embargo on foreign goods which finally culminated 
in the War of 1812. The Connecticut parishioners who had 
planned to leave for Ohio changed their minds. And in the 
Western Reserve David Bacon had his promised land to him- 

When he could not meet his obligations, his creditors 
quickly foreclosed and repossessed his 12,000 acres, his skele- 
ton town of Tallmadge, and his very residence. Crushed in 
spirit and deprived of livelihood, David Bacon led his large 
family on the weary 6oo-mile trek back to New England. 
There he dragged out six more years of defeat selling Bibles, 
occasionally teaching, sometimes delivering sermons. He was 
forty-six when he died in August 1817, when the girl child 
upon whom he had left the deepest impression was only six. 

Without inheritance, and with a half-dozen mouths to feed, 
the widow Bacon distributed as many of her brood as she 
could among relatives and friends and moved to New York 
City to work as a milliner. Of the entire family it was thought 
that six-year-old Delia fared the best. She was accepted in a 
Hartford home that offered her, at least materially, such com- 
forts as she had never known before. Her guardian, Mrs. 
Delia Williams, was the wife of a prominent attorney. 

Delia Bacon lived with the Williamses for nine years. In 
many respects she found them generous. For one thing, they 
provided her with the best education then available for an 
unemancipated American young lady. In 1824 the clever 
Catharine Beecher, seeking occupation after the death of her 
fiance, Professor Alexander M. Fisher, established a small 
school for women in Hartford. Though it never attained an 
enrollment of more than 150- students, it was to become na- 
tionally respected. One of its first pupils was the founder's 
younger sister, Harriet, who would become world famous as 
Harriet Beecher Stowe. Another was Delia Bacon. Many 
years later, Catharine Beecher would remember that Delia 

( 177 ) 

The Square Pegs 

possessed one "of the most gifted minds" she had ever en- 
countered in male or female society, and that "she was pre- 
eminently one who would be pointed out as a genius. . . ." 

Her three years under Catharine Beecher and dutiful sup- 
port until she reached maturity were the best Delia could 
hope for as a ward of the Williamses. She was lonely for love 
and companionship. These her guardians could not supply. 
They were well intentioned, but they were childless, and 
their regime was austere. "There can be no doubt of the calm 
and constant kindness of patronage which the fatherless child 
received here/' Delia's nephew, Theodore Bacon, wrote later. 
"But its calmness may have been somewhat stern and grim." 

In 1826 Delia Bacon left the Williamses to make her own 
way. She was fifteen years old, without capital and without 
connections, and possessed only of the learning imparted by 
Catharine Beecher. She had no choice but to exploit her single 
asset. She would emulate Miss Beecher. She would found her 
own academy for women and teach others. 

It took Delia four heartbreaking years to learn that she 
was no Catharine Beecher. Aided by an older sister, she 
opened girls' schools in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New 
York, and everywhere she failed. In the end her eldest 
brother, Leonard Bacon, the successful pastor of New Ha- 
ven's First Congregationalist Church, rescued her from debt 
and urged her to concentrate on instruction to the exclusion 
of business. 

For the next decade and more Delia Bacon devoted herself 
to teaching. She returned to Hartford to accept employment 
as a pedagogue, then restlessly moved on to two other similar 
positions in New York State. She taught with only half a 
mind for her work. Its better half was given over to author- 
ship. "From her childhood," noted brother Leonard, "she has 
had a passion for literature, and perhaps I should say a longing, 
more or less distinct, for literary celebrity." 

When she was twenty years old, Delia began her struggle 
for "literary celebrity," responding to what Catharine Beecher 

( 178 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

had characterized in her as "the desire of human estimation, 
especially in the form of literary ambition." Early in 1831 
the firm of A. H. Maltby in New Haven published a collec- 
tion of three melodramatic, historical novelettes entitled Tales 
of the Puritans. The title page credited no writer, as the 
author had insisted upon anonymity. But when the imagina- 
tive if incongruous stories met with no adverse criticism, 
Delia stepped forward to acknowledge authorship. Under her 
pen the Puritans unbent, and were made to indulge in pro- 
tracted love scenes and dashing swordplay. The book had a 
brief vogue among lady readers, and Delia was more than 
satisfied, admitting that it had been "written without experi- 
ence, without knowledge of the subjects of which it treated, 
with scarcely a book to refer to beyond the works made use 
of in school." 

Later the same year, with less trepidation and no anonym- 
ity, Delia submitted a short story, "Love's Martyr," in com- 
petition for a first prize of $100 being offered by the Phila- 
delphia Saturday Courier. Perhaps it surprised her not at all 
that she was soon announced as the winner. But it may sur- 
prise many, reading of her victory more than a century later, 
to know the caliber of opposition she overcame. For among 
those Delia had defeated in the contest was an impoverished 
former West Point cadet, two years her senior, named Edgar 
Allan Poe. Though Delia's fiction was awarded the $100, 
one of Poe's several submissions, "Metzengerstein," was given 
the secondary honor of publication during January 1832 at 
space rates. With this appearance in print, Poe, who had al- 
ready brought out three volumes of verse, made his debut 
as a writer of short stories. 

Next, Delia decided to become a playwright. Her first 
offering, long planned, would be based on a dramatic episode 
that had occurred during the Revolutionary War. Delia had 
once read of an American girl, Jane McCrea, who had fallen 
in love with a British officer under General Burgoyne's com- 
mand. Taken captive by a party of Indians, Jane McCrea 

( 179 ) 

The Square Pegs 

offered them a sizable reward if they would release her to 
the British. The proffered reward provoked a violent dis- 
agreement among the redskins. Each Indian claimed to de- 
serve the full ransom. In the heat of the argument one savage 
turned upon the source of the trouble, the captive girl, killed 
her, scalped her, and made off. When the murder became 
public it did much to arouse and inflame patriotic opinion 
against the British and their Indian allies. 

Out of these tragic materials, Delia spun her romantic 
play. It was rejected everywhere for its verbosity, improba- 
bility, and amateurish pretentions. Undeterred, yet with some 
misgivings (for she warned in her foreword that her work 
was "not a Play . . . not intended for the stage" but was 
merely a "DIALOGUE"), she submitted the theatrical effort 
for publication. 

The so-called dialogue, two hundred pages of wordy prose 
in blank verse, was served up to America's readers in 1839 
as The Bride of Fort Edward: A Dramatic Story, by Delia 
Bacon. "It was a failure, every way," Delia's nephew re- 
corded. "It brought debt instead of money, and no renown; 
but it did the great service of ending, for a time, her attempts 
at literary work, and turning her back to study and instruc- 

After this debacle Delia embarked upon the most success- 
ful undertaking of her brief career that of lady lecturer. 
It is more than likely she got the idea from observing the 
success of Margaret Fuller, feminist, critic, and gadfly. In 
this new endeavor Delia seemed to find herself at last. Her 
knowledge of literature and history, her eloquence and wit, 
supplemented by a small reputation gained with her first book 
and by contacts acquired through years of teaching and 
through her clergyman brother's high station, helped to in- 
crease the attendance at her lectures. She might have had a 
long and prosperous career and "will Shakspere gent" might 
have rested undisturbed through all eternity had not scandal 

( 180) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

and shame entered her life in the malevolent shape of Rev- 
erend Alexander McWhorter, student of divinity and cad. 

It is difficult, at best, to reconcile the stiff image left us 
by her subsequent literary reputation, of a studious, single- 
minded Delia Bacon, with the softer, shimmering vision, 
which existed before her retreat into monomania, of a warm, 
womanly Delia Bacon enraptured by love, sacred and pro- 
fane. But as all existing evidence confirms, Delia was a woman. 
Beneath the prim aspect of teacher and speaker, behind the 
sterility of her scholarship, lay hidden the normal passions, 
the hungers, the longings for a man's love. 

She was not, by any means, unattractive. During her 
lecturing phase, as Mrs. Eliza Farrar recalled, she "was tall 
and commanding, her finely shaped head was well set on 
her shoulders, her face was handsome and full of expression, 
and she moved with grace and dignity." A friend of Delia's, 
Mrs. Sarah Henshaw, remembered her as "graceful, fair, and 
slight. Her habitual black dress set off to advantage the ra- 
diant face, whose fair complexion was that uncommon one 
which can only be described as pale yet brilliant." A da- 
guerreotype of Delia taken in May 1853, when she was forty- 
two years of age, still exists. She sits reposefully, staring into 
the camera. She wears a bonnet, and a shawl is thrown over 
her black-satin dress. Her hair is black and flattened by a 
severe part in the middle. Her brow is high, her deep-set 
eyes seem darker than the blue-gray described by her friends, 
her nose is long and classically Grecian, and her generous 
mouth is drawn in a tight, amused smile. If the face seems 
more forbidding, more worn, than the description of it left 
by her friends, it must be remembered that the portrait was 
taken six years after the sitter had suffered deeply at the hands 
of McWhorter. 

With a nice sense of respect and a poor sense of history, 
Theodore Bacon does not mention McWhorter by name in 
his biography of his aunt. His only comment is provocatively 

( 181 ) 

The Square Pegs 

enigmatic. "When she was mature in age, she underwent a 
most cruel ordeal, and suffered a grievous and humiliating 

The ordeal began in 1846 when Delia was lecturing in 
New Haven, where her brother Leonard had replaced his 
friend and mentor, Dr. Nathaniel W. Taylor, as pastor of 
the First Church. At the hotel where Delia took her room 
and board she found herself often dining at the same table 
with another occupant of the hotel, a young man named 
Alexander McWhorter. She learned that McWhorter came 
from a wealthy New Jersey family and was a resident licen- 
tiate of Yale, studying under Dr. Nathaniel Taylor. Though 
there was a mutual attraction between Delia and McWhorter, 
she remained briefly aloof. Perhaps it was because they had 
not been formally introduced. More likely, it was because 
Delia was then thirty-five years old, and McWhorter twenty- 

After a short time, Delia could no longer ignore Mc- 
Whorter's formal attentions. Nor, as it turned out, did she 
any longer wish to. Learning that her fellow boarder was 
a student under her brother's respected friend Dr. Taylor, 
she felt free to respond to McWhorter's overtures. It was 
her custom to give nightly receptions in her parlor. To these 
she invited friends and acquaintances, and to one such affair 
she invited McWhorter. He attended and made it clear that 
his interest in his hostess was romantic rather than intellectual. 

"His first visit was not his last," the Philadelphia Times 
reported rather sternly in 1886. "He was more than pleased 
with Delia Bacon's intellectual attainments he was interested 
in her personal attractions. He called upon her frequently. 
He showed her marked attention. He acted as her escort in 
public. He professed for her a profound and lasting affection, 
and would not take no' for an answer. He even followed her 
to a watering-place, with no other excuse than to be near 
her. These two . . . were lovers. . . . Then, when he tired 
of the flirtation, as all men do who fall in love with women 

( 182 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

older than themselves, he turned viciously upon his uncom- 
plaining victim and contemptuously characterized an affair, 
that had begun with baseness on his part, a literary intimacy." 

Delia's flight to the hydropathic establishment the "wa- 
tering-place" in Northampton, Massachusetts, had been 
made necessary by a bad case of nerves brought on by her 
family's cynicism toward young McWhorter's motives. At 
first troubled by the disparity in their ages, she had removed 
herself from the hotel and McWhorter's gaze by taking resi- 
dence at her brother's house. McWhorter insisted upon visit- 
ing her. It was then, upset beyond endurance, that she escaped 
to Northampton. Again the gallant McWhorter followed. 
At last, assured of his devotion, Delia gave herself to the 
divinity student. 

Their romance became the talk of New Haven. Relatives 
and friends alike were fearful lest their beloved Delia become 
a fallen woman. To rescue her reputation they let the word 
be spread about that Delia was engaged to marry McWhorter. 
When the news of his betrothal reached the philandering 
young licentiate, he was amazed. At once his heart, so recently 
warm, began to chill In a panic, he publicly denied the en- 
gagement. To make sure he was understood, he ridiculed 
Delia, exhibited her passionate letters of love, and insisted 
that though she had proposed marriage to him no less than 
five times, he had never agreed to anything beyond friend- 
ship. Delia, immersed in a bad attack of vapors, could not 
believe that her beloved was acting so badly. But when her 
most private letters were quoted back to her, the scales fell 
from her eyes. 

Delia's camp, led by brother Leonard, called McWhorter 
a practiced seducer, a brazen liar, and a disgrace to the cloth. 
McWhorter's camp, led by Dr. Taylor, called Delia the se- 
ducer, called her Phryne, Theodora, Messalina, or at the very 
least a sex-starved spinster who had attempted to entrap an 
artless and defenseless young Yale student. With the pastor 
of the First Chruch and its ex-pastor engaged in battle, all 

The Square Pegs 

of New England's clergy felt called to arms. Men of God 
took opposite sides and gossip ran wild. 

In defense of virtue, Leonard Bacon determined to have 
justice done. Young McWhorter had obtained a license to 
preach in the vicinity. Leonard Bacon demanded that the 
Congregational Ministerial Association revoke that license. 
His sister's seducer, he implied, was Satan incarnate. He would 
prove that McWhorter was guilty of "slander, falsehood, and 
conduct dishonorable to the Christian ministry." 

The charges came to trial before a jury of twenty-three 
ministers. McWhorter put up a stout defense. His view, as 
Miss Beecher reported it, was that an older woman had en- 
snared "his unsophisticated affections." He swore that he "had 
never made a declaration of affection." In refutation Leonard 
Bacon revealed that he had seen "a real love letter" from 
McWhorter to Delia in which the divinity student had de- 
clared: "I have loved you purely, fervently." As his sister's 
keeper, Leonard Bacon regarded her suitor as anything but 
unsophisticated (rather, as a "clerical Lothario," the press re- 
ported in clarification). McWhorter had misled Delia and 
tampered with her affections, all with dishonorable intent. 
When he had attained his objective he had retreated, and then 
had attempted to protect his reputation by maligning a good 
and decent lady. By the time Delia took the stand there was 
little left to say. Usually eloquent, she was tongue-tied and 
soon in tears. 

The twenty-three jurors consulted and voted their verdict. 
Twelve ministers found McWhorter not guilty. Eleven found 
him guilty as charged. By a narrow margin McWhorter had 
been vindicated, but he was admonished to practice what he 
preached. Delia's admirers, and there were many, never vindi- 
cated him or forgave him. Catharine Beecher published a 
book on the scandal sympathetic to Delia. And as recently as 
1888, a disciple of Delia's, the Minnesota congressman and 
reformer Ignatius Donnelly had only contempt for "the base 
wretch who could thus, for the amusement of his friends, 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

trifle with the affections of a great and noble-hearted woman." 

After the trial Delia went to Ohio to recover and to bury 
herself in the books of another, and happier, age. When she 
returned to New England and her lectures, she was a new 
woman and she had a mission. For she had found in history a 
man she disliked even more than the faithless McWhorter. 
This man, she would soon announce, was William Shake- 
speare, pretender and mountebank. 

An omnivorous reader, she knew the plays credited to 
Shakespeare almost as well as any Elizabethan scholar. Curi- 
ous about the genius who had created these magnificent and 
varied works, she began to study Shakespeare's life. At once 
she was dismayed at how little was known of a writer so 
prolific and so great. 

Delia learned that there was no contemporary record 
of Shakespeare's birth, schooling, or social life. There was 
evidence that his father had been a butcher, farmer, wool- 
dealer, and glover. A bond dated November 28, 1582, gave 
proof of Shakespeare's marriage to Anne Hathaway. An as- 
sortment of documents indicated that he had performed as 
an actor at Court, had purchased a fine house in Stratford, 
and had been involved in many land investments. A hasty 
will, filled with erasures and interlineations, and made out 
three months before his death, bequeathed his biographers 
information on his family, friends, real estate, and "second- 
best bed," which last he left to his wife. This there was, and 
little more. 

Delia found that most other information on Shakespeare 
came later and was secondhand. John Aubrey had mentioned 
some early education, but he mentioned it sixty-five years 
after Shakespeare's death. That Shakespeare had held the 
horses for the actors in the Earl of Leicester's company, and 
had later become one of the company, was not a fact, but 
a tradition. So was the story that he had been forced to depart 
Stratford after being caught deer-poaching on the estate of 
Sir Thomas Lucy. The deer-poaching episode was not pub- 

( 185 ) 

The Square Pegs 

lished until ninety-two years after Shakespeare had died. 

Delia was anything but satisfied. Question after question 
came to her mind about Shakespeare as human being and 
artist. The works were there for all to see, and they were 
the product of genius. But could this man have been that 
genius? If so, where was a record that he had ever attended 
school? Or owned a book? Or traveled abroad? How could 
he, whose parents were ignorant and whose station was low, 
have had so much knowledge of ancient history and of un- 
translated Greek and Latin classics? Where could he have 
learned of court manners and chivalric sports? How could he 
have acquired so technical a background in law, medicine, 
and military affairs? An actor and property holder, when did 
he find the time to pen two plays a year? And if he found 
the time, why did neither he nor his contemporaries ever 
mention or discuss his writing in personal letters? Where was 
one single bit of correspondence from Shakespeare to a 
publisher, fellow writer, critic, patron, or actor? Above all, 
why did no manuscript from his pen, no scrap of manu- 
script even, survive his time? 

As Delia questioned and questioned, and probed and re- 
searched into the Elizabethan and Jacobean past, the cer- 
tainty took hold of her that Shakespeare had not written the 
plays attributed to him. He had been used by someone more 
cultured, more talented, perhaps by several people, which 
would logically account for the incredible variety of plays. 
But who were the real authors and why had they used "that 

Delia searched the writings of Shakespeare's contempo- 
raries for clues. Then she returned to the plays. At once it 
all came clear. She found "underlying the superficial and 
ostensible text" of the plays a daring and liberal "system of 
philosophy." Later she would explain her next step to Haw- 
thorne, and he would tell the world that "as she penetrated 
more and more deeply into the plays, and became aware of 
those inner readings, she found herself compelled to turn 

( 186 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

back to the 'Advancement of Learning' for information as 
to their plan and purport; and Lord Bacon's Treatise failed 
not to give her what she sought. ..." 

In short, Sir Francis Bacon had written the plays. To his 
name she quickly added names of collaborators Sir Walter 
Raleigh and Edmund Spenser. And, as minor fellow con- 
spirators in this playwriting syndicate, she included the 
"courtly company" of Sir Philip Sidney, Lord Buckhurst, 
Lord Paget, and the Earl of Oxford. 

To Delia it seemed that Sir Francis Bagon was everything 
that the great plays suggested Shakespeare should have been. 
The plays required in one man the knowledge of aristocracy, 
politics, poetry, law, diplomacy, sport, travel, and philos- 
ophy. Bacon alone had such knowledge. His birth had pre- 
ceded Shakespeare's by three years, and he had lived ten years 
after Shakespeare was dead. His father had been Queen 
Elizabeth's Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. He had studied 
at Cambridge before he was thirteen, and had prepared for 
the bar at Gray's Inn. He had visited France, had served as 
a member of Parliament, and had been appointed James Fs 
Lord Chancellor in 1619. He had lived extravagantly, and 
this, perhaps, more than anything else had forced him to ac- 
cept bribes from litigants. Once exposed, he confessed to 
twenty-three acts of corruption, for which he was banished 
from the court, fined, and sentenced to the Tower of London 
for two days. He was probably, as Pope remarked, "the 
wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind." His philosophical ideas 
were far in advance of his time. And his reputation as a writer 
was secure with the publication of The Advancement of 
Learning and fifty-eight brilliant essays. 

But for all of Bacon's erudition and energy, Delia would 
not credit him with the entire output enclosed in the First 
Folio. Part of the authorship belonged, she was certain, to 
Sir Walter Raleigh and Edmund Spenser. Raleigh had ante- 
dated Shakespeare by a dozen years and survived him by two. 
The son of a gentleman, Raleigh had been to Oxford, to war, 

( 187 ) 

The Square Pegs 

and to far-off Virginia. From his prolific pen flowed books 
of travel, history, and verse, and Jonson regarded him as the 
father of English literature. One of Raleigh's closest friends 
was Edmund Spenser, who also preceded Shakespeare by 
twelve years, and who died a full seventeen years before 
"that Player." Spenser, a Cambridge graduate, was widely 
read, scholarly, and religious. He had been a member of 
the Earl of Leicester's circle and a frequent visitor to Eliza- 
beth's court. His poetry showed familiarity with Greek, Latin, 
and English argot. And, of course, he had written The Faerie 

These three, then, and their friends, had promoted a me- 
diocre actor named Shakespeare to immortality for their own 
ends. In an era when royalty was throttling free speech, 
these men had decided that the play was the thing, the only 
means by which they might safely disguise their ideas and 
incite the masses. "It was a vehicle of expression," said 
Delia, "which offered incalculable facilities for evading these 
restrictions." For example, why not a modern tirade against 
tyranny cloaked in the toga of Julius Ccesar? "If a Roman 
Play were to be brought out at all ... how could one ob- 
ject to that which, by the supposition, was involved in it?" 

By 1852 Delia had interested Emerson in her radical theory, 
and a year later, with the financial backing of his New York 
friend, she had gone to England to complete her researches 
firsthand and to announce her shocking find to the literary 

Within four weeks of her arrival in London she had reached 
Thomas Carlyle by means of Emerson's letter of introduction. 
Carlyle, at fifty-eight, was at the height of his fame as a 
historian. His French Revolution, published sixteen years be- 
fore, was already a classic, and he had just returned from 
Germany, where he had done research on a projected biog- 
raphy of Frederick the Great. Though dyspeptic, and often 
crabbed and uncivil, this crusty idealist was astonishingly 
kind to Delia and her obsessive theory. Perhaps his affection 

( 188 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

for Emerson, whom he had met twenty years before and 
w!\ose friendship he cherished or perhaps his curiosity over 
the fact that, as he would write, "there is an understanding 
manifested in the construction of Shakspere's Plays equal to 
that in Bacon's Novum Organum" inspired his kindness. At 
any rate, he informed Delia: "Will you kindly dispense with 
the ceremony of being called on (by sickly people, in this 
hot weather), and come to us on Friday evening to tea at 
7 ... and we will deliberate what is to be done in your 
Shakspere affair." 

Carlyle, his wife Jane, and a learned family-friend were on 
hand in the Chelsea house to greet their strange American 
visitor. Carlyle liked Delia at once for her "modest shy dig- 
nity" and her "solid character." Delia was delighted with the 
historian, though startled by his booming laughter. "Once or 
twice I thought he would have taken the roof of the house 
off." The tea proceeded nicely until, at last, Carlyle asked 
his guest to explain her Shakespeare theory. Delia explained. 
At once there was a tempest amid the teacups. Carlyle may 
have had reservations about Shakespeare and respect for Sir 
Francis Bacon, but nothing so heretical as this had he ex- 
pected or, indeed, ever heard before. 

"They were perfectly stunned," Delia wrote her sister. 
"They turned black in the face at my presumption. c Do you 
mean to say,' so and so, said Mr. Carlyle, with his strong 
emphasis; and I said that I did; and they both looked at me 
with staring eyes, speechless for want of words in which to 
convey their sense of my audacity. At length Mr. Carlyle 
came down on me with such a volley ... I told him he did 
not know what was in the Plays if he said that, and no one 
could know who believed that that booby wrote them. It 
was then that he began to shriek. You could have heard him 
a mile." 

The argument continued into the evening. As discussion 
became more heated, Delia became cooler toward Carlyle. 
At last he, perceiving her hurt, retreated into gruff tolerance. 

( 189 ) 

The Square Pegs 

He promised to keep an open mind and assist her in every 
way. He would submit to Fraser's Magazine an article $he 
had written on the theory if she, in turn, would consent to 
study original source material in the British Museum. "If 
you can find in that mass of English records," he told her, 
"any document tending to confirm your Shakspere theory, 
it will be worth all the reasoning in the world, and will cer- 
tainly surprise all men." 

As the months passed, Delia utterly ignored Carlyle's ad- 
vice that she test her theory against seventeenth-century pa- 
pers in the British Museum. She needed no proofs beyond 
those she already possessed through the method of inductive 
reasoning so beloved by her idol, Sir Francis Bacon. Her 
funds, supplied by Butler, were swiftly dwindling, and she 
knew that she must give her great theory to the world before 
they were gone. She worked day and night on a detailed, 
book-length exposition of her hypothesis. The early chapters 
she expected to serialize in Putnam's Magazine to fulfill her 
commitment, and with the money received from the maga- 
zine she expected to finance her work to its completion. 

During the latter days of November 1853 Delia suddenly 
removed herself from London to lodgings at the nearby 
village of St. Albans. There, a short walk from Sir Francis 
Bacon's old estate and his tomb, she continued to write. Her 
only effort at further substantiation of her theory occurred 
when, through the help of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, she 
attempted to have Bacon's coffin opened. Her request was 
refused. Feverishly she was now suffering severe headaches 
and occasional hunger pangs she returned to her book. 
Carlyle was all disapproval "Miss Bacon has fled away to 
St. Albans (the Great Bacon's place)," he reported to Emer- 
son, "and is there working out her Shakspere Problem, from 
the depths of her own mind, disdainful apparently, or desper- 
ate and careless, of all evidence from Museums or Archives 
. . . Poor Lady! I sometimes silently wish she were safe at 

( 190 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

home again; for truly there can be no madder enter- 
prise. . . ." 

By remaining in St. Albans, Delia had, in effect, burned 
her bridges behind her. It was a dangerous decision, but there 
seemed to be no choice. She had spent the money given her 
for survival All that was left was the money set aside for 
her passage back to America. And now she began to spend 
that, too. As she explained defensively to Emerson: "I am 
living here as economically as I could in America; and as I 
think only of finishing my work, and have no other future 
... I do not see why I should spend so large a sum merely 
for the sake of being in America." 

She lived meanly, dedicated and driven by her holy mission. 
She rarely went walking, never met a native of the com- 
munity except by accident, subsisted on the cheapest of fare, 
and scratched out her pages of manuscript while huddled in 
bed for warmth. Finally, after eleven months of privation 
and solitude in St. Albans, and after a month in Hatfield, 
she packed her precious manuscript and fled the severe winter 
of the countryside to seek more habitable lodgings in London. 

Armed with a list of advertisements from The Times, 
Delia hired a cab. The driver, quickly aware of her limited 
means, said that he knew of reasonable lodgings in Sussex 
Gardens. Delia was agreeable to anything. Thus, by good 
fortune, she met momentary salvation in the form of a kindly, 
overweight greengrocer named Walker, and his wife. Walker 
had an unheated flat to let over his shop. Grateful for a haven, 
Delia moved in, paid her fourteen shillings promptly each 
week, and worked steadily toward completion of her book. 
Soon her funds were gone. Walker, a gentleman of delicacy 
and a patron of the arts, did not evict her. Instead, he per- 
mitted her to stay on without payment for sk months. When 
Delia borrowed ten pounds and sent it to Walker, he returned 

Despite a letter from Carlyle recommending her "clear, 

The Square Pegs 

elegant, ingenious and highly readable manner," portions of 
Delia's book were being firmly rejected by the leading British 
publishers. Delia was filled with despair. But her black mood 
was of short duration. For suddenly from New York came 
the first ray of hope. Putnam's Monthly had received a chap- 
ter of Delia's book from Emerson. The editors liked it. They 
were featuring the chapter in their January issue, just six 
weeks off, and were prepared to pay her five dollars for every 
page of print. Moreover, they wished another chapter for 
their February issue, and as many more chapters as Delia 
desired to have serialized. 

Deliriously happy, secure in the knowledge that this ar- 
rangement could support her comfortably in London until 
her masterwork was done, she prepared four more chapters 
amounting to eighty pages of manuscript, and posted them. 
But even before her editors had received the new material, 
Delia's first article was in print. 

The opening feature in the January 1856 number of Put- 
nawfs Monthly , was entitled "William Shakespeare and His 
Plays: An Inquiry concerning Them." Delia devoted her 
entire first article to the task of maiming William Shake- 
speare. She referred to his authorship of the plays as the "great 
myth of the modern age." She felt "that deer-stealing and 
link-holding, and the name of an obscure family in Stratford" 
were not exactly the requisites for scholarship. She berated 
him as "the Stratford poacher" and she ridiculed him as "this 
Mr. Shakespeare, actor and manager, of whom no one knows 
anything else." For the defenders of the Bard, who resented 
the deer-poaching tradition, she had only the harshest words. 
"If he did not steal the deer, will you tell us what one mortal 
thing he did do? He wrote the plays. But, did the man who 
wrote the plays do nothing else? Are there not some foregone 
conclusions in them? some intimations, and round ones, too, 
that he who wrote them, be he who he may, has had experi- 
ences of some sort? Do such things as these, that the plays 
are full of, begin in the fingers' ends? Can you find them in 

( 19* ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

an ink-horn? Can you sharpen them out of a goose-quill? 
Has your Shakespeare wit and invention enough for that? 
. . . Had he no part of his own in time, then? Has he dealt 
evermore with second-hand reports, unreal shadows, and 
mockeries of things? Has there been no personal grapple with 
realities, here?" No, the "vulgar, illiterate man who kept the 
theatre where they were first exhibited" had not created 
the great plays. The very idea "has become too gross to be 
endured any further." 

Delia went no further in this initial blast. She withheld 
the names of those whom she had discovered to be the real 
authors. She hinted only of "some friend, or friends, who 
could . . . explain his miracle to us." 

The article was a success, and created sufficient agitation 
and controversy to warrant more of the same. Or so, at least, 
Delia was led to believe. But then, like a thunderclap, came 
the incredible news from New York that Putnam's Monthly 
had decided to cancel the rest of the series. 

What had happened? The editors gave, as their official rea- 
son, the explanation that the four latest articles were too 
general and "make so little progress in the demonstration of 
the main proposition, that if given separately they would 
weaken rather than increase the interest in the subject." 

Emerson agreed with the editors. Though he had regarded 
Delia as a "genius, but mad" and ranked her with Walt Whit- 
man as "the sole producers that America has yielded in ten 
years," he had now become impatient with her repetition, 
verbosity, and lack of solid, factual refutation. "The moment 
your proposition is stated that Shakespeare was only a player, 
whom certain superior person or persons could use, and did 
use, as a mouthpiece for their poetry it is perfectly under- 
stood. It does not need to be stated twice. The proposition is 
immensely improbable, and against the single testimony of 
Ben Jonson, Tor I loved the man, and do honor his memory 
on this side idolatry as much as any/ cannot stand. Ben Jonson 
must be answered, first. Of course we instantly require your 

( 193 ) 

The Square Pegs 

proofs. ... I am sure you cannot be aware how volumi- 
nously you have cuffed and pounded the poor pretender, 
and then again, and still again, and no end." 

If Delia found the cancellation of Putnam's Monthly diffi- 
cult to bear, she found Emerson's sudden loss of faith in 
her even more crushing. Suddenly, in her eyes, Emerson was 
an unreasonable intellectual snob. He had never been inter- 
ested in her, after all. He had sponsored her simply to share 
credit for her brilliant theory. As to his challenge that she 
answer Jonson's assertion that he honored Shakespeare's mem- 
ory, that was typical Emersonian nonsense. Of course she 
could answer that challenge, if she wished. "I know all about 
Ben Jonson," she wrote. "He has two patrons besides 'Shak- 
speare.' One was Raleigh, the other was Bacon. The author 
of these Plays and Poems was his Patron." In short, Jonson 
knew that Raleigh and Bacon were really Shakespeare, so 
quite naturally he praised his patrons by praising Shake- 

Emerson's role in the disappearance of her precious chap- 
ters added fuel to her frenzy. He had asked his brother Wil- 
liam, in New York, to pick up the rejected chapters and re- 
turn them to Concord, whence Emerson expected to forward 
them to Delia. William dutifully picked up the chapters and 
gave them to a house guest named Sophy Ripley, who was 
returning to Concord. "She took the sealed parcel in her 
hands," explained Emerson, "and came down to the Staten 
Island ferry with my brother in his carriage, one and a half 
miles, and just before reaching the boat perceived that she 
had not the parcel." Miss Ripley could not find the chapters 
in the straw-covered bottom of the carriage, or on the road, 
or in the ferry. She advertised for the lost parcel, and offered 
a reward, but it was never found. Delia blamed the magazine 
editors. She even blamed Emerson a little. But she did not 
blame herself for having failed to make copies of her work. 
As her paranoia took stronger hold on her, she hinted darkly 

( 194 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

of a plot fostered by Shakespeare-lovers. "These are not the 
first of my papers that have been destroyed" 

As a matter of fact, there were others to support Delia 
in her view. Her friends, and later her followers, believed 
that reasons other than mere repetition had made the editors 
of Putnam's Monthly cancel her series. Elizabeth Peabody 
thought that Shakespeare-scholars, led by Richard Grant 
White, had been so horrified by the heresy of the first article 
that they had descended upon Putnam's and talked them out 
of the rest of the series. Ignatius Donnelly, on the other hand, 
thought that the fault was to be found among Delia's own 
friends, who begged Putnam's to stop encouraging her ec- 

At any rate, Putnam's could no longer be depended upon, 
nor could Ralph Waldo Emerson. When the eighteen pounds 
Delia had received for her first article were spent, she was 
impoverished and at wit's end. She had been unable to pay 
her rent for a year. She was determined not to trouble 
Carlyle further. She had a letter of introduction to the 
wealthy, elderly bachelor, Jarnes Buchanan, who was Ameri- 
can minister to Great Britain and who would in short months 
be elected president of the United States. Delia wrote Bu- 
chanan, asking to see him. He replied that he would call upon 
her. When he came, at last, she found him formal and remote 
and somewhat stuffy. She could not bring herself to ask 
his aid. 

With Buchanan's departure all hope seemed to fade. Delia 
searched her mind for someone in all Britain who might come 
to the rescue of her person and her completed book. Then 
she remembered Nathaniel Hawthorne, the brother-in-law 
of her friend Elizabeth Peabody. She had never met him, but 
she knew that his old college-friend, President Franklin 
Pierce, had awarded him the well-paying consulship at Liver- 
pool. Hawthorne, if anyone, would understand the plight 
of a fellow author. He had struggled, too. Of course, he was 

( 195 ) 

The Square Pegs 

known to have an antipathy toward women who were ag- 
gressive, erudite, talkative. He had disliked Margaret Fuller 
intensely. "She had not the charm of womanhood," he had 
thought, and found her too excessively pushy for femininity, 
too clever, and too frank on the subject of sex. Would he, 
then, couple Delia's name with Miss Fuller's? Would he re- 
member her writings, and the lectures, and the New England 
scandal, and draw away from her? Delia hesitated. But only 
briefly. Hunger and pain and defeat gave her courage. 

On May 8, 1856, she sat down and wrote: 

"Dear Mr. Hawthorne, I take the liberty of addressing 
myself to you without an introduction, because you are the 
only one I know of in this hemisphere able to appreciate the 
position in which I find myself at this moment. . . . 

"Of course it is not pleasant to me to bring this subject 
to the attention of strangers, as I have been and still am com- 
pelled to, for it seems like a personal intrusion, and like ask- 
ing a personal favor. . . . 

"For I want some literary counsel, and such as no English- 
man of letters is able to give me. Mr. Carlyle has been a 
most cordial personal friend to me, but there are reasons 
why I could not ask this help from him, which would be- 
come apparent to you if you should look at the work at 

"The work admits of publication in separate portions. 
What I want is to begin to publish immediately a part of it, 
enough to secure the discovery. ... I would not be willing 
to print any part of it till some friendly eye had overlooked 
it, if there were no other reason for delay. It is not hard 
reading. Would you be willing to take a part of it, a part 
which you could read in an evening or so . . . ?" 

In Liverpool the fifty-two-year-old Hawthorne, sick of his 
consular job, "bothered and bored, and harassed and torn in 
pieces, by a thousand items of daily business," as he would 
write Delia, irritated by the beer-sodden British, might have 
been expected to possess little patience for another American 

( 190 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

in trouble. Yet, so sensitive was he to human loneliness and 
insecurity, and so decent and good were his instincts, that 
he was moved to reply to Delia at once. Within four days of 
writing him, she had her answer. He had heard of her several 
years before from Miss Peabody. And he had heard of her 
theory. He thought that he was too busy and preoccupied 
to be very helpful as critic or judge, but if she needed his 
reaction, or his assistance in securing a publisher, he was ready 
to serve her. There was only one condition, and in this Haw- 
thorne was firm: 

"I would not be understood, my dear Miss Bacon, as pro- 
fessing to have faith in the correctness of your views. In fact, 
I know far too little of them to have any right to form an 
opinion: and as to the case of the 'old Player' (whom you 
grieve my heart by speaking of so contemptuously) you will 
have to rend him out of me by the roots, and by main force, 
if at all. But I feel that you have done a thing that ought to 
be reverenced, in devoting yourself so entirely to this object, 
whatever it be, and whether right or wrong; and that, by so 
doing, you have acquired some of the privileges of an inspired 
person and a prophetess and that the world is bound to 
hear you, if for nothing else, yet because you are so sure of 
your own mission." 

Grateful, excited, and alive again, Delia sent portions of 
her book to Hawthorne. And with them an apology: 

"I am sorry to have hurt your feelings with my profane 
allusions to the Earl of Leicester's groom, a witty fellow 
enough in his way. But long familiarity with the facts has 
produced a hopeless obduracy in my mind on that point. 
... I do not, of course, expect you to adopt my views until 
you find yourself compelled to do so, neither do I wish you 
to give the faintest countenance to them till you know fully 
what they are and their grounds." 

Soon enough, Hawthorne had opportunity to become more 
fully acquainted with Delia's views. After reading portions 
of her manuscript he wrote her that he still was not a convert 

( 197 ) 

The Square Pegs 

to her theory and that she made too much of the parallels 
she had found in Bacon and Shakespeare, writers' thoughts 
often being similar though they "had no conscious society 
with one another." However, he complimented her on her 
knowledge of Bacon and on "the depth and excellence" of 
her work. 

Generously he offered her financial assistance, and when 
her pride restrained 'her from accepting, he sent the money 
anyway. Desperately as she needed his money, his literary 
help was what she sought most. And she told him so directly. 
"The way in which you can help me," she said, "will be 
to certify that you have read my book and that it is entitled 
to a publication." 

Again Hawthorne understood her real need, and promised 
to do what he could. His own publisher in England was 
Routledge. This firm had sold a a hundred thousand volumes" 
of his books to their profit and his own, and he was certain 
that they would do anything he asked. But first he must meet 
Delia and discuss the matter with 'her. When could he call 
upon her? Delia was frightened. "I am unfit to see any- 
one. I have given up this world entirely. . . . Still, if you 
are kind enough to look after me when you come ... I 
will put on one of the dresses I used to wear. . . ." 

On July 26, 1856, Hawthorne went down from Liverpool 
to London, made his way to the grocery store in Sussex Gar- 
dens, met the fat, friendly Walker and his wife, and was es- 
corted up three flights of stairs to Delia's flat. She was still 
asleep, though the hour was not early. Hawthorne guessed 
that her hermitlike existence had made her hours erratic. While 
Delia was being awakened, and nervously began to dress, her 
benefactor had time to study her parlor. Naturally he was 
drawn to her books first. They were piled high on a table, 
and each had some relation to her Shakespeare theory. There 
was Raleigh's The History of the World, Montaigne's Essay s, 
Shakespeare's Plays, a volume of Bacon's letters, a pocket edi- 
tion of the Bible, and several other works. Hawthorne settled 

( 198 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

down with Hazlitt's translation of Montaigne, and had been 
reading "a good while" when suddenly Delia appeared in 
the doorway. 

Before her entrance Hawthorne had reflected on what her 
physical appearance might be. From her correspondence, 
from the fact that "she was a literary woman," he had con- 
jured up an unattractive image: "I had expected ... to see 
a very homely, uncouth, elderly personage." When Delia 
stood before him at last in person, he was agreeably sur- 
prised. He saw a woman "rather uncommonly tall," with 
"a striking and expressive face, dark hair, dark eyes, which 
shone with an inward light as soon as she began to speak." 
Though she was forty-five years of age, Hawthorne thought 
her aspect almost youthful and was sure that she had "been 
handsome and exceedingly attractive once." 

There was no restraint. Their correspondence had made 
them friends, and they conversed quickly and easily. The 
talk soon turned to her theory and the publication of her book. 
Delia admitted that she was a recluse because she had no 
patience for meeting people not interested in her theory. She 
told Hawthorne that he was the fourth person to visit her 
apartment in all those months, and that except for a few 
evenings with Carlyle, and with Mrs. Farrar, who was visiting 
London, and business calls on the American Consul, she went 
out to see no one. She had even become estranged from her 
family in New England. They disapproved of her mission, 
and in an effort to bring her to her senses and force her to 
come home, they had ceased contributing to her support. 
Remembering this later, Hawthorne decided: "If taken from 
England now, she would go home as a raving maniac." He 
would write her family and tell them so and do the best 
in his power "to supply her with some small means." 

She was a brilliant talker. Speaking "in a low, quiet tone," 
she discussed "the authorship of Shakspeare's plays, and the 
deep political philosophy concealed beneath the surface of 
them." As he listened, Hawthorne thought that the plays 

( 199 ) 

The Square Pegs 

were so varied and so deep that a hundred philosophies 
and truths could be discovered in them by anyone wishing 
to prove anything, but he refrained from speaking his mind 
for fear of provoking his hostess. As she went on and on, he 
was entranced by her presentation, but cynical about her 
argument. He contained his disagreement because he did not 
wish to debate the subject. 

Next her conversation took a new turn that gave Haw- 
thorne cause for dismay. The moment her book was accepted 
for publication, she said, she was going to open Shakespeare's 
grave in Stratford. "In Lord Bacon's letters, on which she 
laid her finger as she spoke, she had discovered the key and 
clew to the whole mystery," Hawthorne recalled. "There 
were definite and minute instructions how to find a will and 
other documents relating to the conclave of Elizabethan phi- 
losophers, which were concealed (when and by whom she 
did not inform me) in a hollow space in the under surface 
of Shakspeare's gravestone. Thus the terrible prohibition to 
remove the stone was accounted for. . . . All that Miss Ba- 
con now remained in England for indeed, the object for 
which she had come hither, and which had kept her here for 
three years past was to obtain possession of these material 
and unquestionable proofs of the authenticity of her the- 

Hawthorne did not attempt to dissuade her from this ma- 
cabre research. He felt sure that her "sturdy common-sense" 
would eventually keep her from attempting the sacrilege. The 
conversation finally turned to more practical matters. Haw- 
thorne repeated his offer to submit her book to his own pub- 
lisher. She bubbled with happiness. She would deliver the 
full manuscript in a week. She knew that Providence had 
brought Mr. Hawthorne into her life in this crisis. 

More than an hour had passed. Hawthorne took his leave. 
As he left the grocery shop he was still under the spell of 
Delia's eloquence and fanaticism. But after a few blocks 

( 200 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

the sanity and bustle of English life about him knocked his 
"temporary faith" from his head and heart. By the time he 
reached Paternoster Row his meeting seemed an improbable 
dream. For a while he had been transported back into the 
Elizabethan era by sheer witchery, and had half believed what 
she had been saying, but now he was awake. Suddenly his 
promise to have her book published seemed extravagant and 
impossible. (Had not Elizabeth Barrett Browning, at a recent 
breakfast-party given in his honor, been "horrified" by Miss 
Bacon's theory?) Nevertheless, he had given his word. He 
would do what he could and hope for the best. 

In less than a week Hawthorne had the thick manuscript. 
He had no time to read it, but turned it over to his wife. 
Sophia Hawthorne was impressed by its erudition. A few 
days later, Hawthorne took the book to London and laid 
it on Routledge's desk. 

Hawthorne did not feel his labors on Delia's behalf were 
yet done. He was disturbed still by something that she had 
said about her family. He took it upon himself to address a 
lengthy letter to the Reverend Leonard Bacon in New Haven. 
He begged the clergyman not to think him impertinent for 
meddling in a family affair. But, he indicated, he felt it his 
duty to report on his relationship with Delia: 

"I understand from her (and can readily suppose it to 
be the case) that you are very urgent that she should return 
to America; nor can I deny that I should give her similar 
advice, if her mind were differently circumstanced from what 
I find it. But Miss Bacon has become possessed by an idea, 
that there are discoveries within her reach, in reference to 
the authorship of Shakspeare, and that, by quitting England, 
she should forfeit all chance of following up these discoveries, 
and making them manifest to the public. ... I will say to 
you in confidence, my dear Sir, that I should dread the effect, 
on her mind, of any compulsory measures on the part of her 
friends, towards a removal. If I may presume to advise, my 

( 201 ) 

The Square Pegs 

counsel would be that you should acquiesce, for the present, 
in her remaining here, and do what may be in your power 
towards making her comfortable." 

Leonard Bacon was deeply disturbed by Hawthorne's let- 
ter. He wrote his sister immediately. He tried to show* re- 
straint and good sense, but a more insensitive and intemperate 
communication cannot be imagined. His experience having 
been confined to giving advice on matters spiritual, he was 
ill equipped to hold forth on matters literary. He told Delia 
to concentrate on magazine articles and forget her book. He 
told her to limit her writings to Shakespeare's plays and for- 
get the authorship theory. "You know perfectly well that 
the great world does not care a sixpence who wrote Ham- 
let." He warned her that she had yielded "to a delusion which, 
if you do not resist it and escape from it as for your life, 
will be fatal to you." He thought her theory a mere "trick 
of the imagination." But if she must persist with her book, 
he had one good, sound Yankee suggestion that might save 
all. "Your theory about the authorship of Shakspeare's plays 
may after all be worth something if published as a fiction." 

Though infuriated by her relative's advice, Delia did not 
bother to fight back. For by the time she heard from Leonard 
she was already in Stratford on Avon, gathering all that 
remained of her wits to do battle with the real enemy. She 
had left London suddenly in late August with farewells to 
no one except Mrs. Eliza Farrar, and this of necessity. 

Mrs. Farrar was entertaining guests one afternoon when 
a servant whispered to her that there was a strange lady at 
the door who would not leave her name. "On hearing this 
I went to the door," said Mrs. Farrar, "and there stood Delia 
Bacon, pale and sad. I took her in my arms and pressed her 
to my bosom; she gasped for breath and could not speak. 
We went into a vacant room and sat down together. She 
was faint, but recovered on drinking a glass of port wine, 
and then she told me that her book was finished and in the 
hands of Mr. Hawthorne, and now she was ready to go to 

( 202 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

Stratford-upon-Avon." She revealed that the purpose of her 
mission was to open Shakespeare's grave. Mrs. Farrar pleaded 
with her to abandon the mad scheme. Delia would not listen. 
She wanted only Mrs. Farrar's help, and she would go. Mrs. 
Farrar gave her a sum of money and saw her off at the rail- 
road station with heavy heart and a sense of impending trag- 

In 1856 the market village of Stratford, in Warwickshire, 
was surrounded still by the "shadowy forests" and "plenteous 
rivers" and "wide-skirted meads" that the Bard himself had 
known and written about. Well-traveled country lanes led 
into the worn cobbled streets of the quiet, lovely old town. 
It was into this idyllic village that Delia Bacon dragged her 
sick and exhausted person on her last English journey. She 
was, she felt, more dead than alive, and her mind clung to 
reality by tenuous threads. Even her method of finding 
a lodging was somewhat fantastic, if fortunate. She saw an 
attractive cottage on High Street, near Shakespeare's last resi- 
dence and the church that held his grave. She rapped on the 
door. The housekeeper told her that the lady of the house, 
Mrs. Terrett, was out. Delia said that she would wait. She 
forced herself inside and sat down, wracked with illness. Pres- 
ently the owner of the cottage, Mrs. Terrett, a respectable 
old widow who lived on her income, returned. She was 
only mildly surprised. Though she had never had a boarder, 
or intended to have one, "she remembered, she said, that Abra- 
ham had entertained angels unawares." The kindly woman 
realized at once that her visitor was an American, and very 
ill, and she knew what she must do. She made Delia lie on 
the sofa, covered her, and went to make dinner. Later she 
agreed that Delia should have two front-rooms and all service 
for seven shillings a week. 

It was more than four weeks before Delia had recovered 
sufficiently to leave her cottage and explore Stratford. She 
was attracted to the town at once. "I like Stratford," she 
wrote Hawthorne. "Shakespeare was right. It is a very nice 

( 203 > 

The Square Pegs 

comfortable place to stop in, much better than London for 
a person of a genial but retiring turn of mind." Hawthorne 
thought this was the only occasion on which he had ever 
known Delia to speak a word of praise for Shakespeare. 

Though lulled by the old place, she was not unmindful 
of her true mission. But she had not yet the strength to move 
Shakespeare's bones. And then, suddenly, in her sixth week 
in Stratford she received the thrilling news that gave her all 
strength. Her book had been accepted for publication at last. 

In an ecstasy of fulfillment, she wrote everyone. "Patience 
has had its perfect work," she wrote to Mrs. Farrar. "For 
the sake of those who have loved and trusted me, for the 
sake of those who have borne my burdens with me, how I 
rejoice!" Congratulations came back from friends and rela- 
tives and all were sincere. "Well done!" replied Carlyle. "This 
must be a greater joy to you than health itself, or any other 
blessing; and I must say that by your steadfastness you have 
deserved it! . . . My incredulity of your Thesis I have never 
hidden from you: but I willingly vote, and have voted, you 
should be heard on it to full length. . . ." 

The printer and publisher, who had connection with Fra- 
ser's Magazine, was to be Parker "you could not have a 
better Publisher," Carlyle assured her and the editor of the 
manuscript was to be a most exacting gentleman named Ben- 
noch. In her brief delirium of happiness Delia did not know, 
nor would she ever know, the actual circumstances behind 
her book's acceptance. Hawthorne had met with resistance 
to Delia's rnasterwork everywhere. Yet, out of his deep con- 
cern for Delia, he had persisted in this Herculean labor. At 
last the respectable Parker had agreed to publish under the 
conditions that Hawthorne lend his name to an introduction 
and that he bear the burden of $1,000 in printing costs. Haw- 
thorne was amenable to both conditions, and preparations for 
publication went ahead. 

In the six months that followed, Delia proved the most 
difficult of authors. She blocked Bennoch and Parker at every 

( 204 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare 3 s Bones 

turn. They wished to call the volume The Shakespeare Prob- 
lem Solved. Delia objected and supplied new titles with each 
new month. Until the eleventh hour there was no agreement. 
To the despair of all, she would not delete or rewrite a sen- 
tence, let alone a chapter. "Every leaf and line was sacred," 
sighed Hawthorne, "for all had been written under so deep 
a conviction of truth as to assume, in her eyes, the aspect of 
inspiration. A practiced book-maker, with entire control of 
her materials, would have shaped out a duodecimo volume 
full of eloquence and ingenious dissertation. . . . There was 
a great amount of rubbish, which any competent editor 
would have shoveled out of the way. But Miss Bacon thrust 
the whole bulk of inspiration and nonsense into the press 
in a lump. . . ." 

As to an introduction by Hawthorne, Delia had hoped for 
one in the beginning and Parker had insisted upon it, but 
now suddenly she determined to stand alone. She had read 
Hawthorne's generous foreword, and she disapproved. She 
would gladly dedicate the book to him, but she would not 
accept his patronage in print. Bennoch and Parker pleaded 
with her. Hawthorne, exasperated, wrote: "I utterly despair 
of being able to satisfy you with a preface." He wanted no 
dedication. The foreword was a condition of publication. The 
foreword was favorable in every way. He told her that he 
had "merely refrained from expressing a full conviction of 
the truth of your theory. But the book will be in the hands of 
the public. Let the public judge; as it must. Nothing that I 
could say, beforehand, could influence its judgment; and I 
do not agree with your opinion that I have said anything likely 
to prevent your cause being heard." He suggested arbitration 
by Carlyle. Delia turned a deaf ear to his entreaties. Though 
the book was already set in type, Parker would not proceed 
unless Delia approved of the introduction. She refused and 
Parker, enraged, withdrew from the project entirely. 

Suddenly her book was adrift again, and Delia was brought 
sharply to her senses. Terrified, she informed Bennoch that 

( 205 ) 

The Square Pegs 

she had changed her mind. Hawthorne's preface would be 
acceptable. But Parker wanted no more to do with Miss Ba- 
con. The weary Bennoch, undoubtedly encouraged by the 
incredibly patient Hawthorne, turned elsewhere for a pub- 
lisher. Soon enough, and by rare good fortune, he found one 
in the smaller firm of Groombridge and Sons, who promptly 
took over the final printing and binding of the book. 

Meanwhile, assured that her theory would soon be given 
the waiting world, Delia busied herself in Stratford with her 
last great enterprise. If she could now verify her writings 
with documentary evidence taken from Shakespeare's grave, 
her book would be a sensation and her life's work would be 
crowned with immortality. She began her "experiment" by 
making a preliminary visit to the Holy Trinity Church, hastily 
surveying Shakespeare's burial place in the chancel, and then 
asking a clerk of the church when fewest visitors and tourists 
were present. He advised her as to the best day, and a week 
later she returned at eight o'clock in the morning and hovered 
near the grave of the Bard, awaiting a moment when she 
might be alone to examine the flagstone over the coffin more 
closely. But there were at least twenty visitors during the day, 
and Delia had no time alone. She asked the clerk if she could 
return one evening after hours. The clerk had no objection. 

At seven o'clock one evening, accompanied by Mrs. Terrett, 
in whom she had confided her daring purpose, Delia went 
back to the church. The clerk was waiting with key and 
candle. Delia and Mrs. Terrett went inside, though the eld- 
erly landlady was much frightened. "I told her I was not in 
the least afraid," Delia related to Hawthorne. "I only wanted 
her to help me a little. So I groped my way to the chancel, 
and she waited till the light was struck. I had a dark lantern 
like Guy Fawkes, and some other articles which might have 
been considered suspicious if the police had come upon us. 
The clerk was getting uneasy, and I found he had followed 
us. . . ." Delia persuaded the clerk to take Mrs. Terrett with 
him and to leave her alone. She was left alone only after she 

( 206 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

promised not to disturb the grave or do anything that might 
cost the clerk his job. 

Now, for the first time, Delia was able to examine the 
flagstone over Shakespeare's coffin. She had been directed, by 
Lord Bacon, to search beneath "stones." She was worried 
lest there be another stone under the top lid. If so, there 
would be room for little else beyond the wooden coffin. She 
was alone for three hours, poking about in the crevices of 
the flagstone, judging its weight, peering up at Shakespeare's 
bust lost in the darkness. A creak of the floor told her that 
she was being watched. The worried clerk had reappeared. 
At last she confessed to this bewildered person what her real 
purpose was and he, troubled, begged her to consult the 
church vicar. 

The vicar proved most considerate. He did not blanch 
when he heard Delia's request. Solemnly he heard her out. 
When she was done he did not say No. "I cannot help fancy- 
ing," said Hawthorne, "that her familiarity with the events 
of Shakspeare's life, and of his death and burial (of which 
she would speak as if she had been present at the edge of the 
grave), and all the history, literature and personalities of the 
Elizabethan age, together with the prevailing power of her 
own belief, and the eloquence with which she knew how to 
enforce it, had really gone some little way toward making a 
convert of the good clergyman." The vicar replied that he 
could not, under any circumstances, permit Delia to under- 
take the removal of the flagstone alone. However, it might be 
permitted in his presence, if she vowed not to touch the cofEn 
itself. At any rate, he wanted time to think about it and to 
consult a Stratford lawyer who was a personal friend. 

In a few days the vicar reported his decision to Delia. While 
he doubted that her experiment would prove successful, he 
saw no reason to prevent it. She could go ahead at once, and 
search beneath the flagstone in his presence if she guaranteed 
to leave no "trace of harm." Whether the vicar was merely 
humoring her, hoping she would withdraw her request, or 

( 207 ) 

The Square Pegs 

whether he sincerely meant to give her the chance to prove 
her theory, we shall never know. For at the brink of dis- 
covery, at the moment of scholarly truth, she hesitated. Had 
Bacon's cryptic message meant that she would find her con- 
firmation in this actor's tomb or in his own? Or had he 
really meant that she look in Spenser's last resting-place? 

"A doubt stole into her mind whether she might not have 
mistaken the depository and mode of concealment of those 
historic treasures," Hawthorne wrote. "And after once ad- 
mitting the doubt, she was afraid to hazard the shock of 
uplifting the stone and finding nothing. She examined the 
surface of the gravestone, and endeavored, without stirring 
it, to estimate whether it were of such thickness as to be 
capable of containing the archives of the Elizabethan club. 
She went over anew the proofs, the clues, the enigmas, the 
pregnant sentences, which she had discovered in Bacon's 
letters and elsewhere, and now was frightened to perceive 
that they did not point so definitely to Shakspeare's tomb as 
she had heretofore supposed. . . ." 

She did not go to the vicar again. Instead, she began to 
haunt the church by night. Lantern in hand, she would make 
her way down the aisle to the tomb and sit there staring. 
The age-worn curse leered up at her, and challenged her, 
but she did not accept its dare. She was afraid. And she was 
weary beyond all human weariness. Her mind was made up. 
Her frail hands need not move Shakespeare's bones. Her 
book would accomplish the task far better. 

In the first week of April 1857 the book, the product of 
years of privation, obsession, and hope, appeared at last. It 
was entitled The Philosophy of The Plays Of Shakspere Un- 
folded By Delia Bacon . . . with A Preface by Nathaniel 
Hawthorne, Author of "The Scarlet Letter" Etc. The title 
page carried quotations credited to Lord Bacon, Love's 
Labour's Lost, and Prospero (the last reading: "Untie the 
spell"). One thousand copies of the huge volume Delia 
devoted 100 pages to a statement of her general proposition 

( 208 ) 




-from a daguerreotype taken in May 1853 


The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

and 582 pages to her text were printed. Half bore the im- 
print of Groombridge and Sons, Paternoster Row, London, 
and the other half, at Hawthorne's suggestion, the imprint of 
his American publisher, Ticknor and Fields, Boston, to be 
delivered for sale in the United States. 

The preface by Hawthorne, to which Delia had so stren- 
uously objected, was devoted largely to quotations from 
Delia's earlier writings. For the rest, Hawthorne's pen treated 
his charge with consideration and courtliness. "My object," 
he wrote, "has been merely to speak a few words, which 
might, perhaps, serve the purpose of placing my country- 
woman upon a ground of amicable understanding with the 
public. She has a vast preliminary difficulty to encounter. The 
first feeling of every reader must be one of absolute repug- 
nance towards a person who seeks to tear out of the Anglo- 
Saxon heart the name which for ages it has held dearest. . . . 
After listening to the author's interpretation of the Plays, and 
seeing how wide a scope she assigns to them, how high a 
purpose, and what richness of inner meaning, the thoughtful 
reader will hardly return again not wholly, at all events 
to the common view of them and of their author. It is for the 
public to say whether my countrywoman has proved her 
theory. In the worst event, if she has failed, her failure will 
be more honorable than most people's triumphs; since it must 
fling upon the old tombstone, at Stratford-on-Avon, the 
noblest tributary wreath that has ever lain there." 

There followed then, in almost 700 labored pages, the un- 
folding of a theory that might have better been told in 100 
pages. As Sophia Hawthorne remarked privately: "Miss 
Bacon cannot speak out fairly though there is neither the 
Tower, the scaffold, nor the pile of fagots to deter her." 
The first chapter was called "The Proposition," and in its 
opening lines Delia revealed her true purpose. "This work 
is designed to propose to the consideration not of the learned 
world only, but of all ingenuous and practical minds, a new 
development of that system of practical philosophy from 

( 209 ) 

The Square Pegs 

which THE SCIENTIFIC ARTS of the Modern Ages pro- 
ceed. . . ."In short, she was more concerned with the hidden 
meaning underlying Shakespeare's plays than with their actual 
authorship. "The question of the authorship of the great 
philosophic poems which are the legacy of the Elizabethan 
Age to us, is an incidental question in this inquiry, and is 
incidentally treated here." The secret philosophy beneath the 
surface of the so-called Shakespearean plays did not come of 
"unconscious spontaneity," but rather was the clever prod- 
uct of a "reflective deliberative, eminently deliberative, emi- 
nently conscious, designing mind." The mind was really sev- 
eral minds "under whose patronage and in whose service 'Will 
the Jester' first showed himself." 

The round table of radicals concerned with the common 
welfare was led by Bacon and Raleigh, and included also Sir 
Philip Sidney, Lord Buckhurst, Lord Paget, and the Earl of 
Oxford. Edmund Spenser, though not highborn, was much 
admired by the others for The Shepheardes Calender, brought 
out in 1579, and was invited to join the group. According 
to Delia, one critic of the time, unnamed, who praised Spenser 
as well as Sidney and Raleigh, hinted at this "courtly com- 
pany" and added mysteriously: "They have writ excellently 
well, if their doings could be found out and made public 
with the rest." It was Bacon who had the idea of employing 
popular plays as a medium of propagandizing the masses. 
"The Method of Progression, as set forth by Lord Bacon, 
requires that the new scientific truth shall be, not nakedly 
and flatly, but artistically exhibited; because, as he tells us, 
'the great labour is with the people, and this people who 
knoweth not the law are cursed/ He will not have it exhibited 
in bare propositions, but translated into the people's dialect." 
Yes, the plays would be the medium, but their real meaning 
must not be too apparent and their authorship must not be 
known. "It was a time . . . when a c nom de plume' was re- 
quired for other purposes than to serve as the refuge of an 
author's modesty, or vanity, or caprice. It was a time when 

( 210 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's "Bones 

puns, and charades, and enigmas, and anagrams, and mono- 
grams, and ciphers, and puzzles, were not good for sport 
and child's play merely. . . ." And when the plays were 
ready it was Ben Jonson who introduced the actor and thea- 
ter-manager Shakespeare to this "courtly company" of au- 

In chapter after chapter, Delia reiterated and expanded her 
proposition, analyzing various Shakespeare plays and exposing 
the secrets they hid and yet propounded. Her dissection of 
King Lear was typical "It is all one picture of social igno- 
rance, and misery, and frantic misrule. It is a faithful exhibi- 
tion of the degree of personal security which a man of hon- 
ourable sentiments, and humane and noble intentions, could 
promise himself in such a time. . . . To appreciate fully the 
incidental and immediate political application of the piece, 
however, it is necessary to observe that notwithstanding that 
studious exhibition of lawless and outrageous power, which it 
involves, it is, after all, we are given to understand, by a 
quiet intimation here and there, a limited monarchy which is 
put upon the stage here. ... It is a government which pro- 
fesses to be one of law, under which the atrocities of this 
piece are sheltered. And one may even note, in passing, that 
that high Judicial Court, in which poor Lear undertakes to 
get his cause tried, appears to have, somehow, an extremely 
modern air. . . ." This play, and all the plays, were part of 
a "great scientific enterprise," and "this enterprise was not 
the product of a single individual mind." 

Delia's book was before the public. For even the most 
hearty reader it was a formidable package. Though it con- 
tained colorful writing, and wit, and sound literary criticism, 
the best of it was lost in a swamp of garrulous redundancy. 
The style was agitated and insistent. To be trapped in mid- 
page was like being caught in an armed riot. The reader, 
cudgeled and bloodied by repetitive argument and phrase, 
staggered into long passages leading on and on into nowhere. 
The evaluation of Elizabethan writings was often profound, 

The Square Pegs 

but the theory of joint authorship was lost in a maze of 
verbosity. The theory was there in print, nevertheless, and 
Shakespeare-scholars were outraged. They termed the book 
the product of a deranged mind, referring, of course, to its 
author's eventual lapse into insanity. To this, the indignant 
Ignatius Donnelly would reply that advocates of Shakespeare 
were as susceptible to lunacy as confirmed Baconians. Don- 
nelly cited the example of George H. Townsend, who was 
the first to come to the defense of Shakespeare after the 
publication of Delia's book. Townsend, too, lost his mind, 
and eventually died by his own hand. 

The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakspere Unfolded had 
been "the world's work," and it was now before the world 
for judgment. Hawthorne recorded the reaction to that 
"ponderous octavo volume, which fell with a dead thump at 
the feet of the public, and has never been picked up. A few 
persons turned over one or two of the leaves, as it lay there, 
and essayed to kick the volume deeper into the mud; for 
they were the hack critics of the minor periodical press in 
London. . . . From the scholars and critics of her own coun- 
try, indeed, Miss Bacon might have looked for a worthier 
appreciation. . . . But they are not a courageous body of 
men; they dare not think a truth that has an odor of absurdity, 
lest they should feel themselves bound to speak it out. If any 
American ever wrote a word in her behalf, Miss Bacon never 
knew it, nor did I. Our journalists at once republished some 
of the most brutal vituperations of the English press, thus 
pelting their poor countrywoman with stolen mud, without 
even waiting to know whether the ignominy was deserved." 

The book had this distinction: it was the first of its kind. 
Even that celebrity was quickly challenged. In 1856, while 
Delia's book was still on press, a cheerful, forty-four-year-old 
Englishman, William Henry Smith, offered to read to his 
debating society a paper advocating Bacon's authorship of 
Shakespeare's plays. Fellow members objected, but John 
Stuart Mill supported his right to be heard. Smith read his 

( 212 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

paper, which emphasized the parallel writings in Bacon and 
Shakespeare and argued that Bacon's known cultural back- 
ground and creative talent made him a more likely candidate 
for authorship of the plays. Smith had this paper printed, and 
a copy sent to Lord Ellesmere, head of England's Shake- 
spearean Society. A year later Smith expanded his paper into 
a modestly priced booklet entitled Bacon and Shakespeare: 
An Enquiry Touching Players, Playhouses and Play-Writers 
in the Days of Elizabeth. While this publication made a con- 
vert of Lord Palmerston, it made an enemy of Delia Bacon. 
She screamed plagiarism. She insisted that Smith had pirated 
her article in Putnam' 's Monthly. Hawthorne wrote Smith 
on Delia's behalf. Smith proved that his advocacy of Bacon 
was not plagiarism, but coincidence, and all hands were satis- 
fied that Delia had been the first in the field. 

Today, after a century, most American literary sources 
bestow upon Delia the title of pioneer. American Authors 
calls her the first Baconian. Van Wyck Brooks refers to her 
as "the originator of the 'Shakespeare-Bacon' movement." 
And the Dictionary of American Biography concludes: "To 
its author remains the credit, or discredit, of having first 
inaugurated the most absurd, and, in other hands, the most 
popular, of literary heresies." 

Upon its publication, however, it seemed doubtful that it 
would pioneer anything, for it seemed doubtful that anyone 
had read it through. "I believe that it has been the fate of 
this remarkable book never to have had more than a single 
reader," said Hawthorne. "I myself am acquainted with it 
only in insulated chapters and scattered pages and paragraphs. 
But since my return to America a young man of genius and 
enthusiasm has assured me that he has positively read the 
book from beginning to end, and is completely a convert to 
its doctrines." 

Of course, Hawthorne was being facetious. He knew the 
book had more than "a single reader," for his own wife, 
Sophia, had read it through before publication. The "single 

( 213 ) 

The Square Pegs 

reader" referred to by Hawthorne, the "young man of genius 
and enthusiasm" who became Delia's first convert, was 
William Douglas O'Connor of Boston. O'Connor was a clever 
young journalist who was discharged by the Saturday Evening 
Post for too staunchly defending John Brown in print. He 
held several government jobs, notably with the Light House 
Board and the Life Saving Service. He was the first to cham- 
pion Walt Whitman and to call him "the good gray poet," 
and in 1 860 he was the first to champion Delia Bacon. In his 
novel, Harrington: A Story of True Love a "fiery and elo- 
quent novel," Whitman called it O'Connor's abolitionist 
hero believed in Delia's theory. And at the end of the book 
O'Connor paid tribute to Delia's brilliance. Two more books, 
these devoted to factual arguments in favor of the Baconian 
theory, followed in the next nine years. 

O'Connor was not the only person of note to read Delia's 
book and become converted to her views. The most famous 
of the others were Ignatius Donnelly and Mark Twain. When 
Donnelly was preparing his ppS-page The Great Cryptogram, 
he wanted to include a portrait of Delia in it. Her family 
refused to submit a picture because, said Donnelly, "They do 
not 'want her identified 'with the theory that Francis Bacon 
'wrote the Shakespeare plays!" Yet, Donnelly added, the en- 
tire Bacon family would be remembered in history only be- 
cause of Delia's theory. Mark Twain admitted that he had 
read Delia's book the year after its publication while he was 
an apprentice pilot on the Mississippi, and he had become a 
convert at once. His pilot, George Ealer, worshipped Shake- 
speare and regarded Delia as a demon. "Did he have some- 
thing to say this Shakespeare-adoring Mississippi pilot 
anent Delia Bacon's book?" asked Twain. "Yes. And he said 
it; said it all the time, for months in the morning watch, 
the middle watch, the dog watch; and probably kept it going 
in his sleep." 

If only a few read the book, they were enough. They 
read it and they argued about it, and the controversy grew 

( 214) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

and spread. One hundred years later Delia's heresy continued 
to persist, to fascinate, to excite, to anger, to amuse. Dozens 
who followed in her footsteps writers, scholars, eccentrics 
were unaware of her existence. Many others knew to whom 
they owed their ideas, but preferred to ignore that pioneer. 
Because she had died insane, Delia's memory became an em- 
barrassment to the movement she inspired. But there can be 
little doubt that in the decades since Delia's death almost 
every new theory on the authorship of the Shakespeare plays 
has had its inception, directly or indirectly, in her sturdy, 
unreadable book. 

Most who have challenged Shakespeare since 1856 have 
begun by following Delia's method of attacking the un- 
worthiness of the "Old Player." Thus, in 1909, Mark Twain, 
still under Delia's spell, would point an accusing finger at 
Shakespeare's last will. "It was eminently and conspicuously 
a business man's will, not a poet's. It mentioned not a single 
book. Books were much more precious than swords and 
silver-gilt bowls and second-best beds in those days, and when 
a departing person owned one he gave it a high place in his 
will. The will mentioned not a play, not a poem y not an 
unfinished literary *work, not a scrap of manuscript of any 
kind. Many poets have died poor, but this is the only one 
in history that has died this poor. . . ." Thus, in 1931, 
Bertram G. Theobald would ask readers in Exit Shakspere, 
as Delia had asked before him, many pointed questions about 
the Bard. If, as most Shakespeare scholars agree, he was little 
educated when he arrived in London at the age of twenty- 
three, when did he acquire the learning to write the poems 
and plays? Why did the theater-owner Philip Henslowe, 
whose diary alluded to most of the great dramatists of the 
day, never refer to Shakespeare? Why did Richard Burbage, 
the great actor, never mention Shakespeare as an author? 
How could Shakespeare have acquired so vast a legal back- 

But to destroy Shakespeare was not enough, as Delia fore- 

( 215 ) 

The Square Pegs 

saw. It was necessary, by all logic, to discover the real author 
or authors. Only a few theorists supported her idea of group 
authorship. Of these the most prominent was Gilbert Slater 
who in 1931 published his Seven Shakespeares. This book 
contended that Bacon, Raleigh, Paget, Buckhurst, Marlowe, 
and the Countess of Pembroke, with Edward de Vere, Earl 
of Oxford, as their leader, had collaborated on the plays for 
which Shakespeare took credit. Slater based his case on the 
fact that the Earl of Oxford had received an annual pension 
of 1,000 pounds from a secret fund set up by Queen 
Elizabeth. This sum, he speculated, was used to pay the syn- 
dicate for creating propaganda favorable to the Queen quite 
the reverse of Delia Bacon's contention that a similar syndicate 
had toiled, instead, to undermine the Queen. 

The great majority of theorists, however, favored one 
pretender and among all pretenders they most favored Sir 
Francis Bacon. Delia had, of course, made her strongest case 
for Bacon, and William Henry Smith had been right behind 
her. Now came the deluge. Few Baconians confined their 
assaults on Shakespeare to deduction and the laws of logic. 
One who did was Theobald, who in 1932 put forth Bacon 
as his choice on the grounds that the man was a genius who 
liked to call himself "a concealed poet." Further, Shakespeare 
was dead (and Bacon very much alive) when the First Folio 
came out with six absolutely new plays and with 193 lines in 
faultless style added to Richard III. Also, Bacon's private 
notebook of jottings 1,600 of them in all was not pub- 
lished until long after Shakespeare's death, though the man 
who was Shakespeare used many of these jottings in the plays. 

Most Baconians were less restrained. They chose to arm 
themselves with every freakish literary weapon available. 
Delia had scorned such weapons. "She never devoted herself 
to whims or fancies about capital letters," her nephew said, 
"or irregular pagination, or acrostics, or anagrams, as con- 
cealing yet expressing the great philosophy which the plays 

( 216) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

In 1888, just six years after having published a novel sup- 
porting Plato's story of the sunken Atlantis, the irrepressible 
Ignatius Donnelly, who was to be known as the "Apostle of 
Protest," brought out The Great Cryptogram. After a study 
of the First Folio, in which he found pages irregularly num- 
bered, words unnaturally hyphenated, and abnormal col- 
umns of print, Donnelly became convinced that Bacon had 
been the true author of the plays. By tracking down key 
words like "volume" and "maske" in the Second Part of 
Henry IV, and by an ingenious method of word counting, 
Donnelly felt that he had proved the hidden authorship. 

Six years later, a Detroit physician named Orville W. Owen 
carried the cipher method to an even greater extreme. By 
construction of a ponderous wooden deciphering machine, 
consisting of two wheels mounted five feet apart, to which 
were attached 1,000 feet of canvas bearing pages cut from 
Shakespeare's plays, Owen hunted out all occurrences of four 
guide-words: honour, -fortune, reputation, and nature. By 
examining dialogue constructed around these four words, 
Owen discovered not only that Bacon had written Shake- 
speare but also that he had written the complete works of 
Marlowe, Spenser, Burton, and several others. Furthermore, 
Owen's remarkable contraption ground out titillating historic 
gossip: that Queen Elizabeth had secretly married Dud- 
ley, that Bacon was their son, that Bacon had murdered 
Shakespeare to put an end to the Bard's attempts at black- 

While the dazzling ingenuity of the Baconians was often 
much admired, industrious and outspoken skeptics were al- 
ways ready to defend Jonson's "Star of Poets." On one occa- 
sion George Bernard Shaw took the time to invent a cipher 
by which he proved to the world that he had written all of 
Shakespeare's plays. On another occasion, when Albert Boni, 
the American publisher, was about to underwrite a Baconian 
cipher system that miraculously revealed the true authorship 
of the Shakespearean plays, an office boy in the firm applied 

( 217 ) 

The Square Pegs 

the cipher to the Daily Racing Form and proved that Bacon 
had written that too. 

However, Delia had offered claimants other than Bacon, 
and seven decades after the publication of her book many 
anti-Shakespeare theorists began to emulate her. Except for 
the strong support thrown behind the Earl of Oxford, whom 
Delia had included in her syndicate, most theorists backed 
Elizabethans whom Delia had ignored or overlooked. In 1912 
Professor Celestin Demblon, of Belgium, suggested Roger 
Manners, fifteenth Earl of Rutland, for whom Shakespeare 
had a shield painted in 1613. In 1919 Professor Abel Lefranc, 
of France, suggested William Stanley, sixth Earl of Derby, 
who lived a quarter of a century after Shakespeare's death. 
In 1920 J. Thomas Looney, a schoolteacher, suggested 
Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, who entered 
Cambridge before he was nine years old, helped fight the 
Spanish Armada, acted in plays at court, and published 
twenty-four lyric poems. In 1943 Alden Brooks suggested 
Sir Edward Dyer, who was a Rosicrucian, an alchemist, a 
favorite of Queen Elizabeth, and "our only Inglishe poett," 
according to Spenser. In 1955 Calvin Hoffman suggested 
(though his candidacy had been proposed before) Christopher 

Against this continuing dissidence the true believers fought 
back with faith and logic. From the moment of Delia's original 
attack the defenders of the Bard rallied to preserve his name 
and credit. Most defenders felt that Delia and her converts 
persisted in overlooking Shakespeare's one major asset his 
genius. As John Mackinnon Robertson wrote of the Baconi- 
ans: "A kind of thesis which finds its motive in the assumed 
improbability of the possession of abnormal literary genius 
by an actor who had left school at 14, has accumulated 
through all its variants a mass of improbabilities not to be 
matched in speculative research on any other field." 

Admitting that Shakespeare's birth was lowly, that his for- 
mal education was limited, that his background lacked nobil- 

( 218 ) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

ity were these facts enough to bar him from authorship of 
the plays? "This respect for the literary value of noble birth 
is impressive in its unanimity," remarked Marchette Chute, 
"but a little hard to explain logically, since the most learned 
of Elizabethan dramatists was a bricklayer, and the most 
poetic, next to Shakespeare, was the son of a cobbler." Too, 
had not Ben Jonson noted that Shakespeare knew at least 
"small Latin and less Greek"? If no English university re- 
corded his attendance, neither did it record the attendance 
of Jonson himself, or Henry Chettle, or Thomas Kyd. If 
Shakespeare had no legal training to explain the knowledge 
of law displayed in his plays, neither did Jonson or George 
Chapman, who wrote several plays that exhibited far more 
knowledge of law. 

In Shakespeare's lifetime fifteen plays appeared bearing his 
name. For most authors this would have been sufficient evi- 
dence of authorship. Why not for Shakespeare? During his 
lifetime, Francis Meres, Jonson, and others acknowledged his 
existence and praised his output. For most authors this would 
have been sufficient evidence of fame. Why not for Shake- 
speare? And shortly after his death, the Folio was published 
containing an engraving of him made by Martin Droeshout, 
while the parish church in his home village erected a bust 
created by Gerard Janssen, the son of a tomb maker. For 
most authors these would have been sufficient evidences of 
honor and tribute paid by friends and admirers. Why not for 

Frank Ernest Hill has summarized the pro-Shakespeare 
position admirably in To Meet Will Shakespeare: "The 
Shakespeare case is supported by many facts and specific com- 
ments. The evidence for it is direct, and it is great both in 
volume and in variety. In contrast, all other cases are 'if 
cases. . . . Not one clear statement from a seventeenth-cen- 
tury writer or other person in a position to know says 'Oxford 
(or Bacon or Derby or Rutland) wrote the works supposed 
to be William Shakespeare's. 5 " 

( 219 ) 

The Square Pegs 

But in April 1857 the forty-six-year-old Delia Bacon could 
not know the literary stir her volume would one day pro- 
voke. In fact, she knew little of the reception it was accorded 
in the British press, or how poorly it sold in her own time. 
Ill, exhausted, inert, she dwelt now with a friendly shoemaker 
and his family in Stratford, paying them seven shillings a week 
and trying them sorely with her recurring hallucinations. To 
her brother, Leonard, with whom she had become reconciled, 
she wrote: "Having fulfilled my work as I thought ... I 
have not cared to know the result. Since the day I heard it 
was published I have made no inquiry on the subject ... I 
am calm and happy. I do not want to come back to America." 

Two months after the publication of the book, Hawthorne 
received a short letter in Liverpool from David Rice, a 
physician who was also Mayor of Stratford. Rice wrote that 
he had attended Miss Bacon and was concerned. "She is in a 
very excited and unsatisfactory state, especially mentally, and 
I think there is much reason to fear that she will become 
decidedly insane." 

Though Hawthorne had not been in touch with Delia since 
the disagreement over the preface in almost her last letter 
to him she had said that he was "unworthy to meddle with 
her work" he immediately undertook responsibility for her 
welfare. He advised Rice to care for her and to charge all 
expenses to him. He wrote to the Reverend Leonard Bacon, 
informing him of her condition and asking his advice. Bacon 
replied: "The crisis at which my sister's case has arrived, 
requires me to say, plainly, that in my opinion her mind has 
been Verging on insanity' for the last six years. . . . My 
fear has been, all along, that whenever and wherever her 
book might be published, the disappointment of that long and 
confident expectation would be disastrous if not fatal to her." 
He agreed that Delia must be returned to her family in Amer- 
ica at once. Immediately Hawthorne went ahead with prep- 
arations for her transportation home and for adequate care. 

( 220) 

The Lady Who Moved Shakespeare's Bones 

But it was too late. Delia's condition had worsened. She could 
not be moved. And Hawthorne, unfortunately, could no 
longer assist her. His consulship at Liverpool, which he had 
come to detest, was at an end by his own request, and soon 
he was off for a year and a half in the "poetic fairy precinct" 
of Italy. By December Delia's insanity had become sufficiently 
acute to necessitate her removal to a private insane asylum 
at Henley in Arden, eight miles outside Stratford. There, in 
the forest of Arden, she remained confined for over three 

In March 1857, twenty-one-year-old George Bacon, one 
of the Reverend Leonard Bacon's sons, arrived in England 
on an American frigate after two years spent in and about 
China. He was hurrying back to America, but he remembered 
that he had an ailing aunt in Stratford and went to call upon 
her. When he learned that she had been removed to an insane 
asylum in Henley, he was shocked. Without consulting his 
elders, he determined to take Delia home, where she belonged. 
He delayed his passage one week, secured his aunt's release 
from the asylum, packed her onto a vessel, and, on April 13, 
1858, led her down the gangplank in New York. 

Her family placed her in a sanitarium called The Retreat, 
in Hartford, Connecticut. Her two brothers and two sisters 
and their children were in constant attendance upon her. She 
sank deeper and deeper into the distorted regions of unreality. 
But in a few last lucid moments she recognized the members 
of her family and spoke to them happily and warmly. Not 
once did she mention William Shakespeare. 

On September 2, 1859, wrote the Reverend Leonard 
Bacon, "she died, clearly and calmly trusting in Christ, and 
thankful to escape from tribulation and enter into rest." She 
was buried in the old cemetery at New Haven, and over her 
grave was placed a brown cross inscribed with the words 
"So He bringeth them to their desired haven." This was 
decent, and it was kind, but it was not enough. There was 

( 221 ) 

The Square Pegs 

one more thing to be said, and four years later, in his auto- 
biographical volume Our Old Home, Nathaniel Hawthorne 
said it: 

"No author had ever hoped so confidently as she; none 
ever failed more utterly. A superstitious fancy might suggest 
that the anathema on Shakespeare's tombstone had fallen 
heavily on her head, in requital of even the unaccomplished 
purpose of disturbing the dust beneath, and that the 'Old 
Player' had kept so quietly in his grave, on the night of her 
vigil, because he foresaw how soon and terribly he would 
be avenged. But if that benign spirit takes any care or cogni- 
zance of such things now, he has surely requited the injustice 
that she sought to do him the high justice that she really 
did by a tenderness of love and pity of which only he could 
be capable. What matters it though she called him by some 
other name? He had wrought a greater miracle on her than 
all the world besides. This bewildered enthusiast had recog- 
nized a depth in the man whom she decried, which scholars, 
critics, and learned societies devoted to the elucidation of his 
unrivalled scenes, had never imagined to exist there. She had 
paid him the loftiest honor that all these ages of renown 
have been able to accumulate upon his memory. And when, 
not many months after the outward failure of her lifelong 
object, she passed into the better world, I know not why 
we should hesitate to believe that the immortal poet may have 
met her on the threshold and led her in, reassuring her with 
friendly and comfortable words, and thanking her (yet with a 
smile of gentle humor in his eyes at the thought of certain 
mistaken speculations) for having interpreted him to man- 
kind so well." 

( 222 ) 


The Explorer 
of the Hollow Earth 

"7 declare that the earth is hollow, habitable 
'within. ... 7 pledge my life in support of this 
truth, and am ready to explore the hollow if the 
world will support and aid me in the under- 


By early 1823 the United States Congress, which had so 
faithfully served Monroe's second administration, was 
sorely in need of a rest. Problem after problem of national 
import had been met and successfully solved. A war against 
Algeria had been won. Florida had been purchased from 
Spain. A Missouri Compromise had been reached on the 
slavery question. The states of Mississippi, Illinois, and 
Alabama had been admitted to the Union. The newly estab- 
lished republics of Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile had 
been recognized, paving the way for what was to be Monroe's 
famous Doctrine. With this activity behind it, Congress could 
reasonably expect f ew more difficult tasks during the duration 
of its term. Yet, quite suddenly, in January 1823, Representa- 
tive Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky, who was to become 
vice-president of the United States, rose in the House to 
present respectfully a petition requesting that Congress fi- 
nance an expedition into the center of the earth and at onc 
Congress was again in an uproar. 

The Square Pegs 

To be sure, there had been rumor of such a projected 
expedition for five years, ever since a retired veteran of the 
War of 1812, Captain John Cleves Symmes, of New Jersey, 
Missouri, and Ohio, had conceived the daring idea that "the 
earth is hollow, habitable within. . . ." Armed with a pro- 
lific pen and oratorical zeal, Symmes had convinced thou- 
sands of excited Americans that the interior of the earth could 
be entered and explored through an opening at the North 
Pole 4,000 miles in diameter and an opening at the South 
Pole 6,000 miles in diameter. 

On March 7, 1822, Symmes had personally induced Rep- 
resentative Johnson to ask his fellow congressmen to "equip 
and fit out for the expedition two vessels of two hundred 
and fifty or three hundred tons' burden." Johnson had passed 
the suggestion along to the House of Representatives, and 
had spoken briefly on its behalf, but the project had been 
ignored as unsound. 

Instead of withdrawing the idea, Symmes remained un- 
discouraged. Realizing that while Congress might not readily 
accede to the request of one individual, it might be more 
receptive to public pressure, Symmes devoted the next ten 
months to building that pressure. By January 1823 Repre- 
sentative Johnson again had a petition, not from Symmes but 
from hundreds who believed that "the national honor and 
public interest might be promoted by the equipping of an 
exploring expedition for the purpose of penetrating the Polar 
region, beyond the limits already known, with a view not 
only of making new discoveries in geography, natural history 
and geology, but of opening new sources of trade and com- 
merce." The man to lead this expedition, the petitioners fur- 
ther urged, was none other than "Captain John Cleves 
Symmes, late of the United States Army," who, "with scien- 
tific assistants," was prepared to descend into the earth's 
interior. Because the petition bore "many respectable signa- 
tures," Johnson felt obliged once again, more forcefully, to 
present it to his colleagues in the House of Representatives. 

The Explorer of the Hollow Earth 

The exhausted congressmen, unprepared for lengthy and 
involved discussions of the earth's lithosphere, reacted with 
vocal dismay. Representative Farelly, of Pennsylvania, made 
a motion to table the new petition. In the short debate that 
ensued, Johnson reminded his colleagues that "respectable" 
voters were behind it. Moreover, if Symmes was right, a new 
race might be discovered within the earth, a discovery which 
would give all Americans clinging to the exterior world 
"great profit and honor." Johnson begged that the petition 
not be shelved. "Something useful might come of it," he said. 
In the roll call that followed, Johnson won. The petition 
was not shelved. But the problem still remained: what to do 
with it? 

There was general agreement that the petition should be 
referred to committee, any committee, for further study and 
recommendation. Representative Arden moved that the peti- 
tion go to the Committee on Commerce, as "the object of 
the memorialists is to establish a commerce with the interior 
inhabitants." The members of the House seemed confused by 
this motion, and when it was put to a roll call, it was voted 
down. In the days that followed, no further disposition could 
be agreed upon, and eventually the petition to send Symmes 
into the bowels of the planet died of inertia. 

Hearing the unhappy news on a lecture tour, Symrnes still 
refused to give up hope. He doubled his efforts to bludgeon 
Congress into offering federal aid. A month later, the House 
of Representatives was swamped by new petitions and memo- 
rials demanding support of Symmes. The longest petitions 
came from Charleston, South Carolina, and from Greenville, 
Ohio. No sooner were these shelved than Representative Ross, 
of Ohio, wearily appeared on the floor waving three more 
from his constituents. In the Senate the volume of requests 
was smaller, but they persisted. The most impressive list of 
signatures was offered by Senator Benjamin Ruggles, of Ohio, 
but his fellow senators remained unmoved. 

In December 1823, shortly after President Monroe had 

( 225 ) 

The Square Pegs 

declared in his annual message that "the American conti- 
nents . . . are henceforth not to be considered as subjects 
for future colonization by any European powers," the bom- 
bardment by Symmes and his followers was resumed. The 
members of the House of Representatives, realizing they 
could no longer avoid the issue, testily put the financing of 
a Symmes expedition to a vote. There remains no record of 
how large a majority of congressmen decided against it. But 
we do know that there were "twenty-five affirmative votes." 
In defeat Symmes won a triumph. If his government would 
not help him sail through a polar cavity into the earth's inner 
shell, at least twenty-five congressmen had indicated approval 
of the plan. It was inspiration enough. Thereafter, Symmes 
was to make verification of his theory by private exploration 
his life's goal. 

The furor in Washington, if it did nothing else, served to 
introduce to the less scientific-minded population one of the 
most diverting and persistent burrowers in world history. 
John Cleves Symmes was born in Sussex County, New Jersey, 
on November 5, 1780. His forebears were among the early 
Puritans. Except for an uncle, Judge John Symmes, who had 
been a delegate to the Continental Congress and had helped 
found the city of Cincinnati, his relatives were undistin- 
guished. Symmes had a "common school education" and 
devoted much of his youth to reading scientific books. 

In 1802, at the age of twenty-two, having determined upon 
a military career, he enlisted in the United States Army. After 
serving at several crude forts in the Midwest, he was pro- 
moted to the rank of ensign and stationed at a garrison just 
outside Natchez, Mississippi. There a fellow officer who dis- 
liked his brusque individuality remarked to friends that 
Symmes was not a gentleman. When this insult was repeated 
to Symmes, he was much offended. He followed his fellow 
officer to the parade grounds, and in full view of all 
"tweaked his nose . . . publicly" and challenged him to a 

( 226 ) 

The Explorer of the Hollow Earth 

duel. The affair of honor was promptly staged, and resulted 
in a Pyrrhic victory for Symmes. While he wounded the 
affronting fellow officer seriously, though not fatally, he him- 
self sustained an injury that "stiffened his left wrist for life." 

Soon enough he was able to redirect his aggressions to- 
ward more patriotic ends. In June 1812 Congress declared a 
war against Great Britain which was to produce the heroism 
of Captain Oliver Hazard Perry, the legend of Old Ironsides, 
the creation of "The Star Spangled Banner," the burning of 
the White House, the loss of 1,877 American lives, and the 
final capitulation of the British in 1815. It also resulted in a 
deserved promotion for Symmes. He was made regimental 
senior captain. At Lundy's Lane, in a night battle fought one 
mile from Niagara Falls, Symmes led a company "with 
bravery, skill and gallantry," we are told in one of the war's 
bloodiest and most confused clashes. At Bridgewater he com- 
manded his company to unload seventy rounds of cartridges, 
and fought beside his men as they successfully repelled three 
British bayonet assaults. At Fort Erie, inside Canada, a gar- 
rison occupied by the United States Army for several months, 
he gathered a commando group and sallied forth to surprise 
and overwhelm an enemy battery and personally spike its 

After the Treaty of Ghent was signed, Symmes retained 
his rank of captain and remained in the Army in the role of 
minor hero. For four years he was quartermaster at a military 
installation on the upper Mississippi. In 1816 he resigned from 
the service, obtained a government license to sell private sup- 
plies to troopers and Indians, and set up shop at the trading 
post of St. Louis in the Missouri Territory. At this settlement 
he met and fell in love with the young widow of another 
soldier. The fact that she had six children did not deter him. 
He married her and gave her four more children, one of 
whom he named Americus Vespucius Symmes, which would 
seem to indicate that he had already acquired more than a 
passing interest in exploration. 

( 227 ) 

The Square Pegs 

During these postwar years private enterprise and his ex- 
panding family interested him less and less. Most often he was 
found perusing his beloved books of science. His first interest, 
as later he would recall, was in the worlds of outer space. 
He purchased a telescope and gazed at Jupiter. He studied 
charts and drawings of Saturn, and concluded that the exist- 
ence of rings around Saturn "establishes . . . that the prin- 
ciple of concentric spheres, or hollow planets, does exist," 
He decided that Sir Isaac Newton had been in error and that 
an atmosphere filled with an "aerial elastic fluid" or "micro- 
scopically invisible hollow spheres of ether" accounted for 
gravity: "the aerial fluid creates a pushing instead of a pulling 
power which is the real principle of gravity." He also decided 
that formless matter in rotation took the shape of spheres and 
"therefore a nebular mass in rotation, as our earth during its 
formation, will not assume the form of a solid sphere, but 
rather of a hollow one." The idea of hollow planets seemed 
perfectly logical to Symmes. Hadn't nature made the interior 
of animal bones, wheat stalks, and human hair completely 

With growing confidence in his concept of the universe, 
Symmes at last came down to earth. He read the writings of 
a Professor Burnet, who believed that the earth had once 
been a small core covered with oil to which the fluid of the 
atmosphere had adhered, thus forming the earth crust. He 
read the writings of a Professor Woodward, who contended 
"that the earth is now formed of distinct strata, arranged in 
concentric layers, 'like the coats of an onion.' " He read the 
writings of Whiston, who believed that the earth had been 
conceived of a comet, and that a liquid abyss had formed on 
that comet and then been covered by a shell, so that in final 
appearance the earth resembled the yolk, albumen, and shell 
of an egg. 

Symmes's vague conjectures gradually assembled them- 
selves into a clear pattern. The earth, like the planets beyond, 

( 228 > 

The Explorer of the Hollow Earth 

was hollow, and filled with concentric spheres that is, with 
smaller globes placed one within the other and all possessing 
a common center. Excitedly he reached back into the past 
for any corroboration. He did not have to reach far. 
Throughout history there had been those who had supposed 
that the earth might be hollow and might contain smaller 
planets within itself. Plato had spoken of "huge subterranean 
streams" and "passages broad and narrow in the interior of 
the earth." In 1692 the eminent Dr. Edmund Halley, later 
astronomer royal and Oxford professor, who ten years earlier 
had observed the famous comet that was to be named after 
him, informed the Royal Society of London that beneath the 
earth's 5oo-mile crust lay a void through which three planets 
the size of Venus, Mars, and Mercury spun. Halley's theory 
was adopted by the great German mathematician Leonhard 
Euler, who modified the three inner planets to one, and gave 
that planet daylight and a prospering civilization. 

In 1721 Cotton Mather spoke of an interior universe, and 
two decades later Baron Holberg wrote a novel in which 
his hero fell inside the earth and there discovered a sun and 
a solar system and himself became a whirling satellite for three 
days. In the early iSoo's a Scottish mathematician and 
physicist, Sir John Leslie, renowned for his work in radiation, 
speculated on a hollow earth furnished with two blazing 
planets similar to the sun called Proserpina and Pluto. 

These readings gave Symmes the courage to undertake his 
next step. He needed courage, for while others had spoken of 
concentric spheres within a hollow earth, Symmes's thinking 
had gone much further. He conceived, as no one had before 
him, of gaping holes at the North and South poles through 
which he and other bold spelunkers might sail to the five 
planets inside. In the spring of 1818 he acted. From his shop 
in the Missouri wilderness he mailed to leading scientific 
academies of Europe, to presidents and professors of Ameri- 
can universities, and to members of the United States Congress 


The Square Pegs 

five hundred copies of an announcement with the simple 
heading "Circular," and the motto "Light gives light to light 
discover ad infinitum." Addressed from St. Louis, Missouri 
Territory, North America, and dated April 10, 1818, the 
notice of discovery read: 

/ declare that the earth is hollow, habitable within; con- 
taining a number of solid concentrick spheres; one within the 
other, and that it is open at the pole twelve or sixteen degrees. 
I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to 
explore the hollow if the world will support and aid me in the 
undertaking. John Cleves Symnes of Ohio, Late Captain of 

To this startling notice was attached another, an after- 
thought in the form of a postscript, which read: 

N.B. I have ready for the press a treatise on the principles 
of Matter, wherein I show proofs of the above proposition, 
account -for various phenomina, and disclose Dr. Darwin's 
"Golden Secret." 

My terms are the patronage of this and the new world, 
I dedicate to my wife and her ten children. 

I select Dr. S. L. Mitch el. Sir H. Davy and Baron Alexander 
Von Humbolt as my protectors. I ask one hundred brave 
companions, well equipped to start from Siberia, in the fall 
season, with reindeer and sledges, on the ice of the frozen 
sea; I engage we find a warm and rich land, stocked with 
thrifty vegetables and animals, if not men, on reaching one 
degree northward of latitude 82; we will return in the suc- 
ceeding spring, J. C. S. 

With these notices, we are told, Symmes enclosed a medical 
report testifying to his sanity. This last was wholly unneces- 
sary. For though the French Academy regarded his discovery 
and proposal with dismay, other recipients were more toler- 
ant. In England, scientists, remembering their own revered 
Dr. Halley, cautiously withheld criticism. In Russia, scientists 

( 230) 

The Explorer of the Hollow Earth 

were definitely impressed, and eventually, as we shall see, 
showed their willingness to co-operate. In the United States, 
scientists, whatever their personal reactions, were loath to 
poke fun at a war veteran. They withheld judgment, though 
soon enough large portions of the lay public would voice 

His initial circular having brought him no patronage 
though it had established his priority as author of what he 
called his "Theory of Concentric Spheres" Captain Symmes 
decided to appeal directly to the people of his native land. 
From his St. Louis trading post he issued two more circulars, 
and in less than a year, three more, one of which elaborated 
upon his original notion that there were holes at the North 
and South poles through which an explorer might enter the 
interior world. Soon these polar openings came to be com- 
monly known as Symmes's Hole or Symmes's Cavity. 

Obsessed by his theory and the need to prove it, Symmes 
moved his person, his books, and his large family to Newport, 
Kentucky. He read heavily, thought deeply, and then began 
to write numerous articles for the popular press, one of the 
earliest being a piece entitled "Light Between The Spheres," 
published in the Cincinnati National Intelligencer during 
August 1819. In Kentucky he gathered about him his first 
devoted disciples, citizens who would soon impress their local 
representative, Congressman Richard M. Johnson, with the 
necessity of presenting Symmes's case in Washington. In 
Kentucky, too, Symmes made the decision to stump the nation 
on behalf of his theory. 

His first lecture was delivered before a large audience in 
Cincinnati during 1820. Shortly after, he addressed other large 
gatherings in Lexington, Frankfort, Zanesville, and Hamilton. 
One of our rare glimpses of Symmes as a human being is of 
him as a lecturer. "The arrangement of his subject was il- 
logical, confused, and dry, and his delivery was poor," 
John W. Peck wrote in 1909. "However, his earnestness and 

The Square Pegs 

the interesting novelty of his subject secured him attentive 
audiences wherever he spoke." 

Of his physical aspect in those years we know nothing. 
We know only that his erudition surprised his skeptics, that 
his temper flared quickly in the face of ridicule, that his 
lack of patience did not permit him to co-ordinate his radical 
ideas into any organized and detailed form, that his old 
military companions still spoke of him as "zealous and faith- 
ful" and that an impressed college disciple thought him u a 
high-minded, honorable man." But if his personality made no 
impression on his time, his imaginative theory certainly did. 
Through his muddled writings and halting lectures Symmes 
doggedly spread the gospel of a new world underfoot. 
Soon few communities in America's Midwest or South 
did not have some knowledge of the Captain's stimulating 

Once, when he attempted to enlighten both the student 
body and faculty of Union College in Kentucky with a 
series of scientific lectures, an undergraduate named P. Clark 
made "copious notes." It is to Clark that history owes the 
only record extant of Symrnes declaiming his theory in 

"The earth is globular, hollow, and open at the poles," 
said Symmes in his initial lecture. "The diameter of the north- 
ern opening is about two thousand miles, or four thousand 
miles from outside to outside. The south opening is some- 
what larger. The planes of these openings are parallel to each 
other, but form an angle of 12 with the equator, so that the 
highest part of the north plane is directly opposite the lowest 
part of the south plane. The shell of the earth is about one 
thousand miles thick, and the edges of this shell at the openings 
are called verges, and measure, from the regular concavity 
within to the regular convexity without, about fifteen hun- 
dred miles." 

The details of the projected expedition, by which Symmes 
hoped to prove his theory, were familiar to all who heard or 

The Explorer of the Hollow Earth 

read the discoverer's words. Symmes would lead "one hun- 
dred brave companions" in two ships equipped with reindeer 
and sleighs to Siberia, and thence to the hole or verge at the 
North Pole, which was 4,000 miles in diameter in contrast 
to the larger hole at the South Pole, which was 6,000 miles 
in diameter. The great opening would be reached by sailing 
through the Bering Strait. Every sign, argued Symmes, 
pointed to its existence. For one thing, explorers often spoke 
of the brilliant twilight of the Arctic regions. "This twilight 
coming from the north," said Symmes, "may be caused by 
the sun's rays thrown into the interior through the southern 
opening, which by two refractions, one at each opening, and 
two or three reflections from the inner concave surface, 
would pass out at the north over the verge, and produce 
there this strong twilight." Also, explorers often reported 
that mysterious warm air currents melted ice in the Arctic 
Sea. The best explanation for these currents would be that 
they rose out of the North Pole cavity. Finally, the curious 
migration of wild life birds winging north into the cold 
regions, instead of south was conclusive evidence "that there 
is a land beyond the frozen Arctic belt, wither some beasts, 
fowls and fish go at the approach of winter and whence 
they return in the spring sleek and fat." 

Symmes was not certain that the members of his expedi- 
tion would know at once when they entered the earth's in- 
terior. There was probably no dropping-off place. Rather, 
the curvature of the wide rim might be so gradual as to "not 
be apparent to the voyager, who might pass from the outer 
side of the earth over the rim and down the inner side a 
great distance before becoming aware of the fact at all." 
Once inside the earth, the travelers would not tumble off the 
concave inner shell. Aerial fluid would encompass them and 
press them safely to water and land. 

Symmes did not think that the interior would be a world 
of darkness. While there would be no dazzling sunlight, there 
would be a softer, more congenial light, the reflection of the 

( 233 ) 

The Square Pegs 

sun's rays as they slanted through the North Pole opening. 
The expedition would probably meet a new race of people, of 
what physique Symmes dared not guess, and it would come 
across lands that might "abound with animals, with organs 
only adapted to the medium which they are destined to in- 

Within this spacious earth interior would be five more 
earths, one inside the other, like the parts of some incredible 
Chinese puzzle. Each would have an opening "filled with a 
very light, subtile, elastic substance ... of the nature of 
hydrogen gas," and this escaping gas would create earth- 
quakes and form volcanic ranges. Ocean currents and marine 
life would gush through these openings, and the expedition, 
if not yet unnerved, might continue downward into the in- 
ferno from inner planet to inner planet until it reached the 
very core. 

This was the theory. On its behalf, as one critic remarked 
caustically, "the master and his disciples have traversed the 
whole country, from south to north, and from west to east, 
so that all men, in all places, might be enlightened in the 
truth." That by now there were influential disciples, there is 
ample written evidence. The foremost of these was a wealthy 
resident of Hamilton, Ohio, James McBride, a trustee of 
Miami University who possessed a valuable library of six 
thousand volumes. It may have been McBride who encour- 
aged Symmes to move to Hamilton in 1824. Or the move 
may have been inspired by Symmes's desire to dwell in a 
community that had been receptive to his lectures. At any 
rate, once Symmes was settled in Hamilton, McBride became 
his patron and collaborator. 

Symmes being reluctant to assemble his notes into book 
form, McBride assumed the responsibility. In 1826 the firm 
of Morgan, Lodge and Fisher, in Cincinnati, published a 
slender volume entitled Symrnef Theory of Concentric 
Spheres, by James McBride. The disciple's prose was less 
fanatic than the master's: 

( 234) 

The Explorer of the Hollow Earth 

"According to captain Symmes, the planet which has been 
designated the Earth, is composed of at least five hollow 
concentric spheres, with spaces between each, an atmosphere 
surrounding each; and habitable as well upon the concave as 
the convex surface. Each of these spheres are widely open 
at their poles. . . . Although the particular location of the 
places where the verges of the polar openings are believed 
to exist, may not have been ascertained with absolute cer- 
tainty, yet they are believed to be nearly correct; their local- 
ities have been ascertained from appearances that exist in 
those regions; such as a belt or zone surrounding the globe 
where trees and other vegetation (except moss) do not 
grow; the tides of the ocean flowing in different directions, 
and appearing to meet; the existence of volcanoes; the ground 
swells in the sea being more frequent; the Aurora Borealis 
appearing to the southward. . . ." 

In commenting upon this modest and restrained effort, the 
Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly noted: "The 
author undertakes to set forth the theory without asserting 
its truth, disclaiming scientific ability to pass upon it, inviting 
criticism, but requesting any who assert its fallacy to furnish 
some other rational and satisfactory explanation of the facts 

Another valuable disciple was the Union College student, 
P. Clark, who during 1826 and 1827 jotted notes on Symmes's 
speeches, but who was of too conservative a cast to publish 
them at once. As a matter of fact, it was not until 1873 that 
Clark paid belated tribute to his idol with an article in the 
Atlantic Monthly entitled "The Symmes Theory of the 
Earth." So constant was his faith, however, that even the 
passage of almost a half century (during which time many of 
Symmes's contentions had been discredited) had not dulled 
his defense: 

"Since this theory was promulgated by its author, enough 
has come to light to prove that he was correct in his views 
of the existence of a warmer climate at the north, and of an 

(335 ) 

The Square Pegs 

open polar sea. And it is believed that, if his theory had been 
fully made public long ago, much hardship, suffering, and 
expense would or might have been avoided in the futile at- 
tempts to find a passage through the bleak and desolate regions 
around Baffin's Bay. That Behring's Straits offer the best 
route into the arctic regions admits of little or no doubt, and 
an expedition for this purpose from the Pacific coast is well 
worth the consideration of the government." 

But if Symmes had his small coterie of partisans, as well as 
his larger following of adherents merely curious to see his 
eccentricity put to test, he also had his detractors. In fact 
and in fiction his ideas were disparaged and his person ridi- 
culed. During 1820 the publishing house of J. Seymour, New 
York, issued a novel entitled Symzonia; a Voyage of Dis- 
covery, by Captain Adam Seaborn, obviously a pseudonym. 
This entertaining work of science fiction was a burlesque 
of Symmes, his theory, and his projected expedition. In the 
narrative, the author-narrator, inspired by Syinmes, outfits 
an expedition to the polar regions, supposedly to hunt seal. 
Nearing the location of the "icy hoop" that leads into the 
interior world, the crew find the bones of a monster on an 
island. Before the crew can mutiny, the Captain allows his 
steamship to be drawn rapidly south by powerful currents. 
Soon they are inside the earth. A new continent stretches 
before them. The Captain names it Symzonia. In its metropolis 
the Captain and crew find an albino race of human beings, 
attired in snow-white garments and speaking a musical lan- 
guage. Symzonia, lit by two suns and two moons, is a socialist 
Utopia. The albino people, ruled by a Best Man, possess pros- 
perity, gold, and advanced inventions, such as dirigibles armed 
with flame throwers that spew burning gas for a half mile 
and more. Eager to maintain their Utopia, the Symzonians 
force the Captain and his crew to return to the more avari- 
cious outer world. 

Most attacks on Symmes were more direct. In 1827 the 
American Quarterly Review dissected the hollow earth the- 

( 236) 

The Explorer of the Hollow Earth 

ory. "Captain Symmes not only believes the earth to be hol- 
low," said the periodical, "but that it is inhabited on the inner 
surface. If it be so, the inhabitants must be placed in a most 
unstable position." The magazine deduced that men dwelling 
150 miles inside the earth could weigh only eight ounces each 
on the average. Of course, "it would be one of the advantages 
of these inner men, that they might fly through the air, with 
great ease, by the aid of a lady's fan." Not only were Symmes's 
ideas unscientific, but his efforts to finance an expedition 
"travelling, from place to place, and, like a second Peter the 
Hermit, zealously preaching up a crusade to this Holy Land" 
were absurdity itself. "We are gravely told, that, to judge 
by the size of the seals, and bears . . . which come from the 
interior of the globe, it must be better suited for animal life 
than the portion which has fallen to our lot, so that by emi- 
grating to this land of promise, we may probably be relieved 
from many of the evils to which mankind are subjected here 
above. . . . However, we fear that this desirable change can 
never be effected, and that we must be content to finish the 
journey of life, in the less comfortable condition of outside 
passengers." In conclusion, though Symmes "may be a gallant 
soldier and an estimable man," he remains a "very unsound 

Neither this type of criticism nor his repudiation by Con- 
gress disheartened Symmes. Determined as ever to explore 
the interior, he appeared as principal speaker at a benefit rally 
staged in the Cincinnati Theatre in Cincinnati during 1824. 
Though the rally was well attended, the curiosity of his au- 
dience did not open its pocketbooks. For lack of funds the 
expedition was deferred. But in 1825 Symmes learned that 
the Russian government, so receptive to his original circular, 
was preparing an expedition to northeastern Siberia. Only 
three years before, another expedition, under a Russian navy 
captain named Fabian Bellingshausen, had made the first dis- 
coveries of land south of the Antarctic Circle, and this had 
now encouraged the Tsar to support an exploration of the 

( 237 ) 

The Square Pegs 

Arctic. Because the destination of the new Russian expedition 
sounded reasonably close to his northern "verge," Symmes 
hastened to write its powerful leader, Count Romanozov, of- 
fering his services. The Russians, still impressed by his knowl- 
edge of the polar wastes, accepted his offer. Though excited 
by the high position offered him, Symmes was forced to with- 
draw at the eleventh hour. He did not have funds to cover 
his fare to St. Petersburg. 

He would never have a similar opportunity to prove his 
theory, though it is thought that one of his disciples succeeded 
in making the grand effort months after Symmes's death. 
This disciple, Jeremiah N. Reynolds, a graduate of Ohio Uni- 
versity, had been attracted to Symmes's theory during the 
earlier lectures. In 1828, when Symmes filled lecture engage- 
ments in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, and 
Canada, Reynolds accompanied him on part of the tour. Some 
time before they reached Canada, Reynolds took off on his 
own, paraphrased his teacher's lectures in many public ap- 
pearances, and quickly raised a considerable sum of money. 
Then he went to Washington, and, through the good offices 
of Secretary of the Navy Samuel L. Southard, convinced Pres- 
ident John Quincy Adams that a ship should be requisitioned 
to survey the South Pole and investigate Symmes's ideas. 
Adams apparently approved the plan, but before it could be 
executed, he was out of the White House and Andrew Jack- 
son was in. Jackson considered the project nonsense and can- 
celed it. 

At this dark moment a wealthy New York physician named 
Watson, his mind filled with concentric circles, offered pri- 
vate financing. In October 1829 the brig Anwwm., with Cap- 
tain N. B. Palmer in charge, and the brig Seraph, under the 
command of Captain B. Pendleton, sailed out of New York 
harbor for the South Pole. Jeremiah N. Reynolds, aboard the 
Annaivm as senior scientist, was the lone Symzonian to ac- 
company the expedition. While the publicized purpose of the 
expedition was discovery, the announcements failed to men- 

( 238) 

The Explorer of the Hollow Earth 

tion what the explorers expected to discover. John W. Peck, 
who investigated the effort eighty years later, had no doubts: 
"It seems to me probable that the sending out of the private 
south polar exploring expedition of the 'Seraph and Annawan' 
was for the purpose of testing Symmes' theory either in- 
cidentally or primarily." 

There were eventually numerous reports on the findings 
and adventures of the expedition, no two of them agreeing. 
According to the most popular account, the vessels made a 
landing at latitude 82 degrees south, but the foot party lost 
its way and was rescued from starvation in the nick of time. 
A rebellious crew then forced the ships to head for home, 
mutinied off Chile, put Reynolds ashore, and went on to seek 
more profitable discoveries in piracy. Less spectacular accounts 
omit the suffering landing-party, though they mention a mi- 
nor rebellion off Chile which was quickly suppressed. One 
account goes so far as to say that the J. N. Reynolds aboard 
the Annawan was not Symmes's follower, Jeremiah N., but 
a more conservative scientist named John N. All histories of 
the unlucky expedition agree on one point: the southern open- 
ing was not found, and the earth's interior was not visited. 

Symmes was not to witness this fiasco. During his strenuous 
lecture tour of Canada in the winter of 1828, he had fallen 
seriously ill. He returned to the comforts of Hamilton, Ohio, 
where he died on May 29, 1829, aged forty-nine, and was 
buried with full military honors. His theory had greater lon- 

Four years after his passing, the twenty-four-year-old Ed- 
gar Allan Poe based his short story "Ms. Found in a Bottle" 
on Symmes's theory. In this purportedly unfinished piece the 
hero is aboard a 400-ton vessel drawn toward the South Pole 
by strong currents, entering a whirlpool, and sinking into the 
earth's interior "we are plunging madly within the grasp of 
the whirlpool and amid a roaring, and bellowing, and thun- 
dering of ocean and tempest, the ship is quivering oh God! 
and going down!" at the narrative's conclusion. In "The 

( 239 ) 

The Square Pegs 

Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfall" Poe described 
the North Pole as "becoming not a little concave" and in the 
"Narrative of A. Gordon Pym" he related the story of a 
voyage that was to have its destination in Symmes's inner 

In 1864 Jules Verne published his widely read novel, Jour- 
ney to the Center of the Earthy which owed its inspiration to 
the theory of Sir John Leslie and the ideas advanced by 
Symmes. Instead of entering an opening at one of the poles, 
Verne's Professor Von Hardwigg, his nephew, and a native 
guide lower themselves into the interior through the crater 
of an extinct volcano in Iceland known as Sneff els. Following 
a descending tunnel, they continue one hundred miles beneath 
the earth's crust. Soon they stumble upon the mammoth cav- 
ern that is the inner world. There are clouds above and there 
is a sea below. Constructing a raft, they sail this sea, observing 
a subterranean world still in an earlier stage of evolution. 
There are mushrooms towering forty feet; there is a boiling 
volcanic island; there are skeletons of early man; there is an 
ugly fight to the death between a giant, lizardlike plesiosaurus 
and an aquatic ichthyosaurus. In an effort to leave the inner 
world, the fictional children of Symmes attempt to use dyna- 
mite to clear a tunnel. The explosion starts an earthquake, and 
they are erupted to freedom through the crater of the vol- 
cano Stromboli in Italy. 

In 1868 Professor W. F. Lyons brought out his book A 
Hollow Globe., which supported Symmes's theory of an in- 
terior earth, but did not mention Symmes by name. In 1878 
one of Symmes's ten children, Americus Vespucius Symmes, 
sought to rectify this omission. Americus's filial tribute con- 
sisted of a collection of his father's writings, notes, and clip- 
pings, all gathered between hard covers under the title The 
Symmes Theory of Concentric Spheres, Demonstrating that 
the Earth Is Hollow, Habitable Within, and Widely Open 
About the Poles, and published by Bradley and Gilbert, of 
Louisville. Though Americus credited full authorship to his 

( 240 ) 

The Explorer of the Hollow Earth 

father, and listed himself only as an editor, he did make one 
creative contribution to the volume. Symmes had contended 
that there was a civilization underground. Americus could not 
resist elaborating. This civilization, he said, was none other 
than that of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who had been 
located by others in areas as diverse as Mexico and Atlantis. 
As to the general content of the book, Americus remained 
confident. "Reason, common sense, and all the analogies in 
the natural universe," he concluded, "conspire to support and 
establish the theory." 

In 1920 appeared a book, an enlargement of an earlier pub- 
lication, entitled Journey to the Earth's Interior by Marshall 
B. Gardner, the employee of a corset company in Illinois. 
Though in his privately printed treatise Gardner spurned 
Symmes's inner planets, dismissed the master's researches as 
superficial, and regarded his predecessor as merely a "crank," 
he was not averse to adopting most of Symmes's original 
ideas. Gardner agreed that the earth could be entered at either 
pole, where there were openings 1,400 miles in width. Inside, 
beneath the 8oo-mile earth crust, but brilliantly illuminated 
by a single miniature sun, would be found a hollow world 
from which the Eskimos had ascended to the outer surface. 

Beyond these literary monuments to his memory, only two 
tangible evidences of Symmes's eccentricity remained. One 
was a small wooden globe that Symmes had employed in his 
lectures. This eventually found its way into the Academy of 
Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. The other was a stone me- 
morial erected by his son Americus in Hamilton, Ohio. The 
memorial, featuring a replica of Symmes's hollow world, bore 
inscriptions on two sides. On one side was engraved a story 
of his heroism: "John Cleves Symmes joined the Army of the 
U.S. as an Ensign in the year 1802. He afterward rose to the 
rank of Captain and performed daring feats of Bravery in the 
Battles of Lundy's Lane and Sortie from Fort Erie." On the 
opposite side was engraved a recognition of his genius: "Capt. 
John Cleves Symmes was a Philosopher, and the originator 

(241 ) 

The Square Pegs 

of ' Theory of Concentric Spheres and Polar voids. 3 
He contended that the Earth was hollow and habitable 

The tribute he most desired an expedition into the earth's 
interior he would never receive. For less than a century after 
his death men had already learned firsthand that Symmes's 
Hole existed neither in the Arctic nor in the Antarctic. If 
Peary's discovery of the North Pole by land in 1909 had not 
been evidence enough, then certainly the flights made by 
Admiral Richard E. Byrd over the North Pole in 1926 and 
the South Pole in 1929 would have severely taxed Symmes's 
faith. As a matter of fact, soon enough, men would know all 
they needed to know of the inner world without the use of 
polar openings. Instead of attempting physical exploration, 
the engineers and geologists of a new era would sink man- 
made wells deeper into the ground than the Grand Canyon 
an oil well in Wyoming would penetrate 20,000 feet below 
the surface, and another in California would reach a depth 
of over 2 1,000 feet and through these drillings, as well as by 
analysis of radioactive rock, heat measurements in mines, and 
earthquake waves, they would learn much about the unseen 
world below. Though their borings and instruments would 
not take geophysicists more than one quarter of one per cent 
of the distance toward the earth's center, they would know 
with some assurance that beneath the earth's thin granite crust, 
only thirty-seven miles thick, lay a zone of rock, then one of 
iron, and then the great core itself, the size of Mars, composed 
of iron and nickel in a molten, plastic stage. 

In this hot, dense interior, Symmes would have found little 
room for his five concentric spheres, little comfort for his 
underworld citizenry. Fortunately he had died before the 
final disillusionment or he might not have rested so easily in 
his hollow and happier earth. 

( 242 ) 


The Editor 
Who Was a Common Scold 

". . . let all pious Generals, Colonels and Com- 
manders of our army and navy who make war 
upon old women beware" 


Between the years 1825 and 1829 the president of the 
United States was John Quincy Adams, whose father 
had been a chief executive before him. Adams was a lonely 
introvert, learned, austere, honest, and of formal habits ex- 
cept for one. It was his custom, during his single term, to rise 
before dawn, usually between four o'clock and six o'clock, 
dress, surreptitiously leave the White House, cross the ex- 
panse of front lawn that looked out upon the Potomac River, 
step behind a growth of shrubbery, remove his clothes, and 
then, quite naked, step into the water for a relaxing swim. 
Sometimes he would paddle about for an hour, then crawl up 
to the bank to dry himself with napkins, slowly dress again, 
and finally return to the White House fully refreshed and 
ready for his breakfast, his Bible, and his governmental chores. 
We do not know when these presidential swims ceased to 
be relaxing, but we do know when they ceased to be private. 
They became a spectator sport on that early summer morn- 
ing, toward the end of the President's term, when he emerged 
from the Potomac in his usual state of undress to find a rotund, 
unkempt, gray-haired woman casually seated on his under- 

The Square Pegs 

wear, shirt, and breeches. Startled, the President hastily re- 
treated into the river, halting only when the water reached 
his chin. 

When he found his wits he angrily ordered the lady to leave 
at once. In a rasping voice she replied that she had hunted 
down the President so that she might interview him about the 
controversy surrounding the Bank of the United States, and 
that she intended to remain until he made a statement. It must 
be understood that this was an age when the President did not 
give interviews to reporters or hold press conferences, and 
that to grant this request John Quincy Adams had to break a 
precedent of long standing. Yet, he knew that if he did not 
break precedent, he might remain in the Potomac for the re- 
mainder of his administration for he knew the woman on 
the bank, and knew that if he was the immovable object, she 
was the irresistible force. 

Her name was Anne Newport Royall. Raised on the Penn- 
sylvania frontier, married to a wealthy and scholarly veteran 
of the Revolution, she had been deprived of her rightful in- 
heritance and had come to Washington to obtain a widow's 
pension. Adams had first met and befriended her the year be- 
fore he was elected to the presidency, while he was still Mon- 
roe's secretary of State. He had tolerated her obvious eccen- 
tricity, ignored her Masonic fanaticism, and promised to assist 
her in collecting the pension. He had also introduced her to 
his English-born wife, and had subscribed in advance to a 
book of travel she was planning to write. The book had since 
become five books, and her last three volumes, entitled The 
Black Book, or a Continuation of Travels in the United States, 
had shocked, irritated, and amused Washington and readers 
throughout the nation. 

While other lady writers dipped their quills in gentility, 
Anne Royall more often dipped hers in venom. She, who 
would meet all fourteen presidents from Washington to Pierce, 
had already interviewed President Adams's eighty-nine-year- 
old father. "When I mentioned his son, the present President 

( 2 44 ) 

The Editor Who Was a Common Scold 

and Mrs. A the tear glittered in his eye; he attempted to reply 
but was overcome by emotion. Finding the subject too tender 
I dropped it as quickly as possible." She was less tender with 
other public figures. She found John Randolph of Roanoke 
pompous but gentlemanly. "He is said to be immensely rich 
but not charitable." A brigadier general, who was anti-Mason, 
was ridiculous: "He is in height not quite so tall as the Puppy- 
skin Parson, about five feet, I should think, and about the size 
of a full-grown raccoon, which he resembles in phiz." A New 
Haven attorney who ejected her from his office deserved only 
ridicule. "He generally wears a blue coat, short breeches and 
long boots; his body is large, his legs spindling; he wears 
powder in his hair; his face resembles a full moon in shape, 
and is as red as a fiery furnace, the effect of drinking pure 
water, no doubt." 

Anne Royall was as frank and harsh in discussing the mu- 
nicipalities that she visited, the sectional customs that she ob- 
served, and the national issues that she heard debated. In the 
pages of The Black Book she made clear her distaste for the 
Bank of the United States. The bank, a powerful monopoly 
capitalized at $35,000,000, controlled the lion's share of gov- 
ernment deposits. Its president, the socially eminent Nicholas 
Biddle, of Philadelphia, had once remarked: "As to mere 
power, I have been for years in the daily exercise of more 
personal authority than any President." Upon meeting Anne 
Royall in person after she had castigated him in print, Biddle 
warned her with a smile: "Ah, Mrs. Royall, I will have you 
tried for your life for killing my President." 

To the relief of a majority of the population, the bank's 
charter was to expire in 1836. However, there was a rumor 
that Biddle might try to force the Congress and President 
Adams to forestall this expiration by granting a new fifteen- 
year monopoly. It was to clarify this burning question for a 
forthcoming book that Mrs. Royall, tugging at her worn 
shawl and waving her green umbrella, had stormed the White 
House in an effort to see President Adams. He had refused to 

( 245 ) 

The Square Pegs 

admit her. Persistent as an angry bee, Mrs. Royall investigated 
the President's routine, learned of the morning swims, and 
soon managed to secrete herself on the White House grounds. 
When her prey was in the water she made her way to the 
riverbank and planted herself upon his clothes. 

As the President impatiently remained immersed in the Po- 
tomac, Anne Royall shrilly reiterated her demand for an inter- 
view. Wearily, one may be sure, the President gave indication 
that he would co-operate. Mrs. Royall then asked him several 
pointed questions about the Bank of the United States. As she 
was a rabid Jacksonian who wanted the charter revoked, her 
questions were doubtless irritating. Nevertheless, the Presi- 
dent answered them directly and fully. When the interview 
was done, Mrs. Royall rose, graciously thanked him, and 
triumphantly hobbled away. And Adams, having dispensed 
with the first executive press conference in American history, 
was free at last to wade out of the water and resume the 
dignity of full attire. 

When someone at a later date asked Adams what he made 
of the remarkable Mrs. Royall, he ruefully replied: "Sir, she 
is a virago errant in enchanted armor." No man ever char- 
acterized her better. 

She was born Anne Newport near Baltimore, Maryland, 
on June n, 1769. Her father, William Newport, was an off- 
spring of the aristocratic Calvert family, but illegitimate and 
an embarrassment. He was given the name Newport instead 
of Calvert, awarded a small annuity, and kept at a distance 
from the manor house. He married a farm girl, and, mindful 
of his noble ancestry, named the first of his two daughters 
after Queen Anne of England. When the colonies seethed 
with revolt, and men took sides, Newport refused to be linked 
with the patriotic rabble. He announced himself a Tory sym- 
pathetic to the British crown and worked for the Tory cause. 
When his neighbors made threats, and the Calverts ended his 
annuity by fleeing to England, Newport realized that Mary- 
land had become uncomfortable. 

The Editor Who Was a Common Scold 

In 1772, when Anne was three years old, Newport took 
his family for a brief stay with his wife's relatives in Virginia, 
and then joined a wagon train heading for the wilderness of 
Pennsylvania. In Westmoreland County, in the vicinity of 
present-day Pittsburgh, he built a narrow cabin, furnished it 
with a large bed and four crude stools, and tilled a small farm. 
He encouraged his wife to practice herb healing on the col- 
onists, and he taught Anne the rudiments of reading by the 
phonetic method. On some unrecorded date Newport lost his 
life, probably in an Indian massacre. His widow and two 
daughters hastily moved to the safety of a fortified settlement 
known as Hannastown. Anne was twelve years old when her 
mother, desperately in need of support, married her second 
husband, a man named Butler. For Anne, the products of this 
new union were a measure of security and a half brother 
named James. 

The Indians, attempting to stem the tide of white migration, 
were on the warpath. Life became a succession of alarms. So 
frequent were the hit and run attacks that eventually they 
became a bore. When redskins approached one cabin outside 
the fort, as Anne recalled later, the housewife refused to take 
flight until she had dusted the furniture. "I can't go off and 
leave such a looking house," she said. But the party of savages 
that advanced on the thirty to forty cabins of Hannastown on 
July 13, 1782, was larger and more formidable than usual. 
Anne and her family fled to the protection of one of the three 
nearby forts. A large crowd of guests, including the settle- 
ment founder's family, attending a wedding celebration at 
Miller's Station in the vicinity, did not flee. The Indians fell 
upon them, slaughtered the men, took sixty women and 
children captive, put all of Hannastown to the torch, and left. 

Despite the horror of this attack, most of the survivors re- 
mained in the area. Anne stayed on only three years more. 
By 1785, when she was sixteen, her stepfather had died, her 
younger sister had married, and she, her half brother, and her 
mother were again destitute. Mrs. Butler decided to leave the 
frontier and seek help from relations in Virginia. Upon arriv- 

( 247 ) 

The Square Pegs 

ing in Staunton, Virginia, Mrs. Butler fell ill of blood poi- 
soning. She was advised to visit the nearby health resort at 
Old Sweet Springs, located in a valley of Monroe County. 
Though the cure worked, it did not replenish the family 
purse. Mrs. Butler would have been reduced to beggary had 
not the richest man in the county, Captain William Royall, 
heard of her lot. He immediately hired her as "his wash- 
woman and menial," an eccentricity frowned upon by his 
fellow landowners, who felt that such tasks assigned to a 
white woman instead of a slave would cause general loss of 
face. In hiring Mrs. Butler, Captain Royall also undertook the 
responsibility of providing for her children. And thus it was, 
in the most unashamedly romantic tradition, that Anne en- 
tered the great house on the slope of Sweet Springs Mountain 
and first kid eyes upon her future husband. 

Captain Royall had served America well during the revolu- 
tion. In 1777, at the age of twenty-seven, he had personally 
raised and financed Virginia's first company of militia. He 
claimed that Patrick Henry had served under him. He and his 
militia raided a ship on which the British Governor, Lord 
Dunmore, guarded a vast store of ammunition. He spent, 
Anne later stated, "a fortune in the war. He was rich and 
generous. He brought the troops from Virginia and North 
Carolina, after Gates' defeat, at his own expense to Guilford 
Courthouse, N.C. Entitled to ten rations a day, he never drew 
a dollar. He was Judge-Advocate to the Brigade, Judge- 
Advocate to the regiment." He was an aide to Lafayette, and 
belonged to the same Masonic Lodge as his friend George 
Washington. He left the Army not a general, as Anne liked to 
think, but a captain, and in lieu of back salary accepted the 
acreage at Sweet Springs Mountain. 

Because he was the wealthiest landowner in the area, his 
eccentricities were tolerated. He released slaves and would 
not buy new ones. He allowed his livestock to run wild. He 
would not permit "unnatural" cattle such as geldings and 
steers in his herds. He was obsessed with the virtues of Free- 

( 248 ) 

The Editor Who Was a Common Scold 

masonry. He was devoted to Thomas Paine and Voltaire, and 
his enormous library, filled with books by democratic authors 
and French philosophers, was generally regarded as radical. 
He was aristocratic and bookish, yet friendly and kind. He 
was uninterested in his many property holdings, and he dis- 
liked his many relatives. He lived the life of a puttering, schol- 
arly recluse until he became interested in Anne. 

For twelve years Anne lived under the Captain's keen eye, 
first as a somewhat spindly, energetic assistant to her mother 
in household chores, then as a slender, darkly attractive as- 
sistant to her employer in managing minor affairs of his estate, 
and finally, as her master's pretty and maturing protegee. 
After the passage of a few years Captain Royall learned, to 
his utter astonishment, that Anne possessed an intelligence be- 
yond what he had expected in a menial. She wanted to become 
as educated as he was himself. She hungered to know what he 
knew. Only her semiliteracy held her back. The Captain's 
astonishment turned to delight. He made Anne his project 
and his Galatea. After teaching her to read and to write, he 
fed her book after book off his shelves, all of Jefferson, all of 
Voltaire, all of Masonic history. He poured his entire library 
into her until, as one contemporary reported, "she became 
the most learned woman in all the county." For almost twelve 
years he molded her in his image. Then he fell in love with 
his creation. 

What happened next happened with almost Biblical simplic- 
ity. It was a warm autumn day in 1797. Anne was working in 
the fields. "The dogwood was in bloom," she remembered, 
"and I was out sowing seeds when the messenger came with 
a saddle-horse for me to go and get married." It was proposal, 
betrothal, and wedding all in one afternoon. When Anne re- 
turned to the house, the Reverend William Martin and the 
Captain were waiting. The marriage took place at once. The 
certificate gave the date as November 18, 1797. 

The marriage lasted sixteen years. Despite the disparity in 
their ages on their wedding day Royall was forty-seven 

The Square Pegs 

years old, Anne twenty-eight and despite the Captain's ret- 
icence about declaring his love, their union was a happy one. 
Though RoyalFs neighbors frowned upon this elevation of 
serving wench to mistress of the manor, and though RoyalFs 
relatives were shocked to see their inheritance diverted to a 
comparative stranger, Royall was contented with his choice 
of mate. By conventional standards the marriage may have 
seemed bleak. It produced no children, no gay parties, no 
exciting trips, and, from all indications, no moments of high 
passion. But there was always, as Anne often professed, the 
deeply satisfying and peaceful pleasure of intellectual affin- 

Actually Anne's relationship to the husband whom she 
worshipped remained that of student to mentor. Persistently 
he instructed her in the precepts of Voltaire and the values 
of Freemasonry. Month after month, Anne and her Captain 
undertook challenging reading projects and discussed what 
they had read. Together, on foot and on horseback, they 
managed the estate. Occasionally, when there was a holiday, 
Royall permitted relaxation from the routine and encouraged 
Anne to direct festivities in the area. At such times, he pre- 
sented her with gifts of valuable property holdings. In 1813, 
when he was sixty-three and Anne f orty-f our, Captain Royall 
took to his bed with a painful illness. After long weeks of 
suffering, he died. With him to the grave went the last peace 
and security Anne was to know. 

Yet in the first days of widowhood it appeared that Anne 
would be independently wealthy. Her husband's last will and 
testament, written five years before, gave her every protec- 
tion against want. "In the name of God, AMEN. I, William 
Royall, of Monroe County, do make and ordain this, my last 
Will and Testament in manner and form following viz: I give 
unto my wife, Ann, the use of ail my Estate, both Real and 
Personal, (except one tract of land) during her widowhood. 
. . ." Excepting the one tract of land left to a niece, nothing 
was bequeathed to Royall's large and indignant clan of rela- 

( MO) 

The Editor Who Was a Common Scold 

tives. Everything belonged to Anne as long as she did not 
marry again. 

Immediately RoyalPs relatives banded together to fight this 
unequal distribution of his wealth. Led by one of RoyalFs 
nephews, William R. Roane, an attorney who needed the 
money and was "a great fool," said Anne they filed suit 
to have the will declared invalid. Their charges were three- 
fold: that Anne had never legally married Royall, that Anne 
had influenced him to sign the will while he was senile, that 
Anne had entertained a succession of lovers, among them a 
young barrister with whom she frequently corresponded. 

Without her husband to protect her, and with malicious 
slander against her on all tongues, Anne decided that she 
wanted to get as far away from Virginia as possible. As her 
estate was in the hands of the court, Anne liquidated her per- 
sonal holdings to pay for her travels. She sold a house and 
real estate in Charlestown, both earlier gifts of her husband's, 
and with this money and a small allowance granted by the 
court, she started south accompanied by three colored slaves 
and a courier. 

She traveled constantly and in state for six years. Except as 
she was disturbed by word of the interminable judicial wran- 
gling at home, she found the inns and sights and people of 
Savannah, Charleston, and New Orleans relaxing and stimu- 
lating. "Hitherto, I have only learned mankind in theory," 
she wrote, "but I am now studying him in practice. One learns 
more in a day by mixing with mankind than he can in an age 
shut up in a closet." While she returned several times to Mon- 
roe County to give depositions in the legal marathon, she now 
leased a house in Huntsville, Alabama, and made it her home. 
There, early in 1823, she learned that the Virginia courts had 
handed down their final decision, and that she was disinherited. 
The Royall relatives had won the battle, and overnight she 
became penniless. 

She viewed the defeat with incredulity. She could not ex- 
plain it. Actually, there was an explanation. Her absence from 

( 251 ) 

The Square Pegs 

the courts, which permitted all scandal attached to her name 
to go unrefuted, had helped to weigh the final judgment 
against her. She was fifty-four years old and as impoverished 
as she had been at sixteen when first she entered RoyalPs 
household as a servant. Dazed and soon depressed, she was 
rendered temporarily immobile. But if the mentally disturbed 
can rarely help themselves, Anne Royall was an exception to 
the rule. From some deep reservoir of character she found 
the strength to stir herself to action. While her next move- 
ments may have drawn her closer to eccentricity, they cer- 
tainly helped her escape insanity. 

Her destination was Washington, D.C. Her late husband 
had been a gallant veteran of the Revolution. As his widow, 
she deserved a pension. She would attend to her just claim in 
person. And along the way she would gather material for a 
book. For, like millions of amateurs at writing before and 
since, Anne had long been commended for the style of her 
private letters. It was encouragement enough. The pension 
would support her and the writing would occupy her mind. 
To avoid further depressive moods, she said, "I resolved to 
note everything during my journey worthy of remark and 
commit it to writing." 

She began the two-week journey on horseback, then trans- 
ferred to a public stagecoach. She had money for three days' 
food and lodgings. When this was gone she found her food in 
the garbage behind tavern kitchens and slept in the open. 
Then, remembering that her husband, a prominent Mason, 
had often assured her that Masons were the kindest folk on 
earth, she began to call upon members of the order in each 
community. They were indeed generous, and not one refused 
to provide her with funds for necessities and travel fare. In 
Alexandria, Virginia, again reduced to pauperism, Anne called 
upon M. E. Clagget, a Mason who owned the City Hotel. 
"At ten o'clock, one cold December night, I arrived at his 
house without one cent in my pocket, a single change of rai- 
ment and badly dressed. I had not a friend on earth. Mr. 

( 252 ) 

The Editor Who Was a Common Scold 

Clagget took me in and from the i5th of December to the 
6th of April following kept me not in a style according to 
my appearance, but furnished me with an elegant parlor and 
bed-chamber and gave me a servant to wait on me the whole 

Refreshed, she resumed her journey to the capital. But first 
she wanted to visit Richmond, to search out evidence of her 
husband's war record in support of her pension claim. By the 
time she dragged herself into Richmond she was again desti- 
tute. Unable to ferret out Masons, she accosted ordinary citi- 
zens on the street. First she asked for loans and was refused. 
Then she begged for money and was ignored. Finally, she 
tried to soften the hardhearted with passages quoted from the 
Bible, again to no avail. At last she obtained some small sums, 
and embittered by the lack of Southern hospitality, took boat 
and stage for Washington. 

She arrived in the capital on the morning of July 24, 1824. 
Too poor to rent lodgings, she selected a house at random 
and told her story, simply and directly, to the occupants, who 
were named Dorret. They sympathized with her, gave her a 
room and meals for six months "without fee or reward," and 
even supplied her with fresh garments. During this period 
Anne enlisted the aid of John Quincy Adams on behalf of her 
pension claim. But because her husband's military record had 
been lost in the Richmond fire, and because the legality of her 
marriage had once been challenged, she was faced with the 
double burden of proving that Royall had served his country 
and that their wedding had not been irregular. For years she 
busily gathered affidavits backing her claim. And Adams, as 
secretary of State, as president, and as congressman, faithfully 
presented her tireless petitions. With monotonous regularity 
they were rejected, and Anne Royall would not see a dollar 
of her pension until almost a quarter of a century after her 
first application. 

Suddenly the book she had planned to write as therapy be- 
came a financial necessity. With five-dollar subscriptions col- 

The Square Pegs 

lected in advance from people as diverse as John Quincy 
Adams and Joseph Bonaparte, she continued her researches 
through New England, And all the while she wrote. In 1826 
the result of all this desperation and energy was issued from a 
press in New Haven. The book was entitled Sketches of His- 
tory, Life and Manners in the' United States, by a Traveller. 
Its sharp delineation of personalities and conditions encoun- 
tered in her travels caused an immediate sensation. It was 
widely commented upon, and it sold well. The most balanced 
review was published in the Boston Commercial: 

"Sometimes she lets fall more truths than the interested 
reader would wish to hear, and at others overwhelms her 
friends with a flattery still more appalling. At any rate, hit or 
miss, the sentiments she gives are undoubtedly her own; nor 
will it be denied that she has given some very good outlines 
of character. Her book is more amusing than any novel we 
have read for years." 

The next year, encouraged by this reception, Anne made 
her first and, happily, her last sally into fiction, a romance 
entitled The Tennesseean, a Novel Founded on Facts. It re- 
lated the painful adventures of one Burlington, a Princeton 
student who was forced to make his own way after his wealthy 
parent had been defrauded in business. Burlington attempted 
merchandising in Nashville, then chased riches in Mexico, at 
last fell into the hands of brigands and pirates, and finally 
escaped to freedom poorer, but richer in having won a Span- 
ish bride. The novel was not a success, and it might have 
ended Anne's creative career at once had not a dramatic po- 
litical occurrence brought her unexpected literary patronage. 

The setting for the dramatic political occurrence was Ba- 
tavia, New York, where resided in 1826 a dissolute bricklayer 
and Royal Arch Mason named William Morgan. When citi- 
zens of the community decided to form a Grand Lodge, they 
excluded Morgan because of his reputation as a drunkard. In 
angry retaliation, Morgan composed a book, Illustrations of 
Masonry, which was intended to expose the secret ritual of the 

( 254 ) 

The Editor Who Was a Common Scold 

order. When he prevailed upon a local editor to publish it, 
the Masons of Batavia became worried. Somehow they con- 
trived to have Morgan arrested on charges of bad debts and 
petty theft and removed to the Canandaigua jail. On the night 
of September n, 1826, two men appeared at the jail, an- 
nounced that they were Morgan's friends and offered to bail 
him out. Only the jailer's wife was on hand. The offer seemed 
reasonable, and she complied. But the moment Morgan was 
led outside she heard him shout: "Murder!" She rushed to the 
door in time to see Morgan in the hands of four abductors, 
struggling to free himself. Shoved into a carriage, he was 
spirited away. He was never seen or heard of again. 

News of the incident spread across the land, and with it 
the rumor that Morgan had been murdered and dumped into 
the Niagara River or strapped to a canoe and sent over the 
falls. Even as those suspicious of Freemasonry began to agi- 
tate, Governor De Witt Clinton of New York, himself a 
Mason of note, sought to smother the hysteria by offering a 
reward of $1,500 for information leading to the arrest of the 
kidnappers. The offer of reward came too late. Already op- 
portunistic politicians, led by Thaddeus Stevens, had seized 
upon the affair and kept hatred burning. The Masonic Grand 
Lodge, roared Stevens, was "a chartered iniquity, within whose 
jaws are crushed the bones of immortal men, and whose 
mouth is continually reeking with human blood." 

The agitation might have died of natural causes Morgan's 
widow had gone off to become one of Joseph Smith's multiple 
Mormon wives had not an anti-Mason political party, dedi- 
cated to suppressing the order, come into being. At last the 
Masons realized the danger and rallied to save their discredited 
order. It was then that their leaders remembered Anne Royall. 
She had long been one of their staunchest supporters. Her 
first book had proved that her pen was a rapier. And except- 
ing one girl who had become a first-degree Mason at New- 
market, Ireland, in 1713 (after having overheard the ritual in 
her father's house), no woman was better informed as to the 

( 255 ) 

The Square Pegs 

purposes of the order. Why not actively enlist her in the serv- 
ice of Freemasonry? 

In 1827 the Masons made their bargains with Anne. They 
would finance an immediate tour of Pennsylvania, New York, 
and all of New England. She would be at liberty to research 
her books and write as she pleased, though a good word for 
the order would not be amiss if at the same time she would 
propagandize for the Masonic cause. Anne was satisfied. This 
unexpected backing from men she admired helped her to visit, 
during the next three years, almost every section of the 
United States and to produce four books in nine volumes that 
would make her name a national scandal and her person a 
national curiosity. 

In pursuit of her research Anne was never unmindful of 
her benefactors. Wherever she went she crusaded for the 
cause of Freemasonry. Sometimes she met impatience. In Bur- 
lington, Vermont, where anti-Masonic sentiment was feverish, 
she cornered a shopkeeper named Hecock and chastised him 
for his intolerance. Hecock, a man of few words, did not 
bother to debate the issues. He merely reached out, picked 
Anne off the floor, and heaved her down a long flight of 
stairs to the street below. More than her pride was injured. 
She repaired a fractured leg herself, and for several years 
walked with a limp. 

But it was in her writings that she repaid the Masons for 
value received. "Was not General Washington a good man?" 
she asked in her books. "He was a Mason. Was not Dr. Frank- 
lin a good man? He was a Mason. Was not De Witt Clinton 
a good man? He was a Mason. These are enough. Now all of 
these are not only the best, but the greatest men in the 
world." The anti-Masons "might as well attempt to pluck the 
sun and moon out of the heavens, as to destroy Masonry 
old as the deluge. And, to give my opinion of it in a few 
words, if it were not for Masonry the world would become 
a herd of savages." As for the martyred Morgan, the story 

( 256 ) 

The Editor Who Was a Common Scold 

of his violent death was only "a vile speculation to make 
money, and not only to make money, but further designed as 
a political engine." 

If she served the Masons well in her relentless travels, she 
served her reading public better. Despite the repetition of her 
personal prejudices and injuries that marred her objectivity, 
the three volumes of The Black Book, the two volumes of 
Pennsylvania, the Letters from Alabama, and the three vol- 
umes of A Southern Tour gave a more accurate representa- 
tion of the American scene than was to be produced by the 
equally mobile Mrs. Trollope. On foot and on horseback, by 
stage and by water, Anne ranged the primitive land from Del- 
aware to Missouri and from Illinois to Louisiana. She wrote 
precisely what she saw, which was almost everything. 

In Pennsylvania she liked the smoke of Pittsburgh, but 
thought Philadelphia "a den of British Tories, domestic trai- 
tors, missionaries and Sunday Schoolism." In South Carolina 
she regarded Charleston as "the receptacle for the refuse of 
all nations on earth the only reputable people there are the 
Jews." In Maryland she saw Baltimore as "illiterate, proud 
and ignorant." In Virginia she found that the "roads were as 
bad as its schools." In North Carolina the ladies took snuff, 
and in the District of Columbia they did not know how to 
dress. In Louisiana there was true graciousness, but this very 
graciousness might lead to disaster. "Their slaves, in the end, 
instead of being a benefit, has proved a very serious injury. 
. . . They have secured nothing to their children but poverty, 
whilst they have reared those children up, not to industry, 
but to high notions." 

Her curiosity was infinite. She tried everything once. She 
visited the lunatics in a Maine asylum. She smoked a peace 
pipe with the Cherokee Indians. She boarded a steamer in 
Virginia to examine the boilers. She forded a river that George 
Washington had once crossed. She searched for Jefferson rel- 
ics at Monticello. She stayed at a female seminary in Penn- 

( 257 ) 

The Square Pegs 

sylvania, and approved, and frequented a barroom in the same 
state, and disapproved. "There is too much whiskey every- 
where," she decided. 

Relentlessly she hunted down the celebrated. She inter- 
viewed Governor Clinton of New York, found him corpu- 
lent and strongly silent, yet "a man of great size, great soul, 
great mind and a great heart." She hiked a great distance to 
meet Dolly Madison, and was delighted when Dolly polished 
her dusty shoes. "Her face is not handsome nor does it ever 
appear to have been so. It is suffused with a slight tinge of 
red and is rather wide in the middle. But her power to please 
the irresistible grace of her every movement sheds such a 
charm over all she says and does that it is impossible not to 
admire her." 

Besides anti-Masons, only one national group incurred her 
constant displeasure. She despised all Evangelicals, not only 
the clergymen who preached the Calvinistic faith, but also 
their followers. In print she referred to male members of the 
church as Hallelujah Holdforths, and she called their women 
Miss Dismals. She accused their missionaries of contaminating 
the Indians, their lobbyists of trying to control the federal 

Anne's books, at least her earliest books, were well circu- 
lated. Her invective was admired and feared, and for a brief 
period she exulted in a new sense of power. But her persistent 
attacks on Evangelicalism brought her powerful enemies. 
They were determined to silence her, and in 1829, when they 
thought they had their ammunition, they struck. In the Court 
of the District of Columbia, a unique complaint was filed 
against her. According to Anne, "there were three counts in 
the indictment: i. A public nuisance. 2. A common brawler. 
3. A common scold. The first two charges were dismissed. 
The third was sustained." 

The actual charges against Anne Royall had been instigated 
by members of a Presbyterian congregation that met regularly 
in an engine house near her dwelling. Their peddling of tracts 

The Editor Who Was a Common Scold 

and their singing of hymns irritated Anne. When youngsters 
of the congregation were encouraged to stone her residence, 
and when the church's most prominent member, John Coyle, 
ostentatiously prayed for her conversion under her window, 
she became furious. She was especially furious, she said, be- 
cause this same John Coyle had given her maid a bastard child. 
At once Anne let the congregation and the entire neighbor- 
hood know what she thought of them. Publicly she berated 
Coyle, or Holy Willie, as she nicknamed him, for being "a 
damned old bald-headed son of a bitch." She called a friend 
of his Simon Sulphur, and yet another male member of the 
church Love Lady, because she vowed that he had once been 
observed in Capital Park trying to convert a pretty colored 
girl while both were "in a state of nature." The Presbyterians 
had had enough. They consulted an attorney. He consulted 
his legal sources, and he came up with something that they 
might call her. So they called her a Common Scold, had her 
arrested, and brought her to trial. 

After one delay on technical grounds, Anne was arraigned 
before the three judges of the Circuit Court in May 1829. 
There was wide interest in the trial because the charge of 
being a scold, a hang-over from early English law, had never 
before been tried in America, and because the punishment in- 
volved tying the accused to a ducking stool and dousing her 
in a body of water. The case of the United States versus 
Roy all was played before a packed and noisy courtroom. The 
prosecution presented twelve witnesses, among them Coyle 
and Henry Watterson, the chief librarian of Congress (whom 
she had insulted in one of her books). The witnesses swore 
that Anne had cursed and berated them in the streets, and in 
general had made a nuisance of herself. Anne hotly denied 
the charges. She was followed to the stand by a variety of 
friends who vouched for her good character. The most prom- 
inent of these was Senator John Eaton, of Tennessee. As 
secretary of War, Eaton would gain notoriety by marrying 
his former mistress, Peggy O'Neale Timberlake, a lively inn- 

( 259) 

The Square Pegs 

keeper's daughter, in defense of whose virtue President Jack- 
son was to fire his entire cabinet. Now on the stand in Anne 
RoyalFs behalf, Senator Eaton acquitted himself gallantly. 
His testimony, said Anne, "was clear and unequivocal and 
directly opposed to that of the prosecution." Despite this 
defense, the judges found Anne guilty as charged. 

When the moment came to mete out punishment, the 
judges sent for an actual ducking stool that had been con- 
structed in the Alexandria navy yard and held in readiness. 
The moment it was displayed they realized that they could 
not enforce so barbaric a penalty. Instead, they fined Anne 
ten dollars for being a scold and demanded fifty dollars' se- 
curity against her committing the same crime again. The 
money was supplied by two friendly newspapermen, and 
Anne was free. In her way she had made history. She was the 
first woman ever found guilty of being a scold in America 
and there would not be another until 1947, when three sisters 
in Pittsburgh were similarly tried and variously sentenced to 
from three to twenty-three months in jail. 

The rigors of the trial and the humiliations suffered as a 
result of its outcome brought an end to Anne Royall's career 
as author. After one more trip to the South she was too ex- 
hausted to travel. Moreover, her books were being taken less 
seriously and their sales were on the decline. She had no choice 
but to make Washington her permanent home and to invest 
her small savings in a business. Obviously the business would 
have to be one in which she could make use of her only talent: 
the ability to observe, to express herself, and to maintain an 
original point of view. And so, at the age of sixty-three, Anne 
Royall became the publisher and editor of her own weekly 

The first issue of Paul Pry appeared in the streets of Wash- 
ington on December 3, 1831. Its four pages carried adver- 
tising, local news, jokes, excerpts from fiction, political com- 
ment, and a vigorous editorial from the pen of the proprietor: 

"Let it be understood that we are of no party. We will 

( 260 ) 

The Editor Who Was a Common Scold 

neither oppose nor advocate any man for the Presidency. The 
welfare and happiness of our country is our politics. To pro- 
mote this we shall oppose and expose all and every species of 
political evil, and religious frauds without fear, favor or af- 
fection. ... As for those cannibals, the Anti-Masons . . . 
we shall meet them upon their own ground, that of extermi- 
nation. For the rest, let all pious Generals, Colonels and Com- 
manders of our army and navy who make war upon old 
women beware. Let all pious Postmasters who cheat the Gov- 
ernment by franking pious tracts beware. Let all pious book- 
sellers who take pious bribes beware. Let all pious young 
ladies who hawk pious tracts into young gentlemen's rooms 
beware, and let all old bachelors and old maids be married as 
soon as possible." 

The headquarters for this journal of opinion was a small 
two-story brick building behind a tumble-down house in the 
shadow of the Capitol dome. Anne pulled the plumbing and 
fixtures out of the kitchen and replaced them with a decrepit 
and unpredictable Ramage printing press and several fonts of 
uneven type. Her staff consisted of a printer, two youngsters 
from a Catholic orphanage, a porter, and a young editorial 
assistant named Sarah Stack. Mrs. Stack, whom Anne called 
Sally, was a serious, unimaginative widow who supported five 
orphan children. 

There was no circulation department. Anne, usually ac- 
companied by Sally, would make the rounds of Washington, 
selling individual copies of the paper and soliciting subscrip- 
tions at two dollars and fifty cents a year. As the two women 
trudged to private residences and businesses, through the halls 
of the Senate and the House, and into the offices of govern- 
ment buildings, they made a remarkable picture. Anne, her 
alert face wrinkled and toothy, her voice loud and insistent, 
was short and dumpy in her shabby shawl and green calash 
dress. She would disarm potential subscribers with jokes and 
gossip, then excitedly waving her thickly mittened hands, 
would admonish them to buy her periodical. Most often bar- 

The Square Pegs 

ried customers would submit to enlightenment, and would 
either present her with one dollar as down payment against 
the full subscription price or merely agree to buy a copy of 
the paper. Then Sally, lanky, thin, and somber, would emerge 
from the background with her armful of papers. 

Most of Washington officialdom from congressmen to 
government clerks was bullied into reading Paul Pry. 
Within a year, agents were soliciting subscriptions in every 
major American city. Those readers who purchased the paper 
but forgot to pay the balance of the subscription fee were re- 
minded of their delinquency in print, their names and debts 
being detailed in the paper under the heading "Black List." 

Actually, few who read Paul Pry did not want to read it 
again. In its five turbulent years of existence the journal, 
while not the most physically attractive newspaper in Amer- 
ica the pulp was cheap, the printing an eyesore, the proofing 
an adventure in myopia was certainly one of the liveliest in 
the land. As in her books, Anne continued to assail anti- 
Masons, Evangelicalism, political corruption, birth control, 
flogging in the Navy, and the Bank of the United States. She 
advocated free speech, open immigration, improved labor con- 
ditions, justice to the Indians, territorial expansion, nonde- 
nominational public schools, sound money, states' rights, An- 
drew Jackson and her own pension. 

There were items of scandal, but they were always care- 
fully researched and edited before publication. As Anne ex- 
plained in one editorial: "We have received a shocking story 
of abuse toward an unprotected female by a prominent man 
who is a Presbyterian. But we must refuse to print it for 
several reasons: It came in too late. It is too personal. It bore 
no signature. It is against a private man. Public men are fair 
game." There were other diversions for the light-minded: ex- 
cerpts from The Pickwick Papers, capsule biographies of well- 
known women, progress reports on Sally's erratic health, and 
execrable verse. 

In 1836, when Anne was sixty-seven and Paul Pry in the 

( 262 > 

The Editor Who Was a Common Scold 

last year of its life, she had a fascinating visitor in the person 
of the youthful Phineas T. Barnum. The gaudy entrepreneur 
had been in show business only one year having sponsored a 
wizened colored woman named Joyce Heth, who was, he 
claimed, 161 years old and George Washington's former nurse 
(she had just died and been found to be eighty years old and 
therefore not George Washington's former nurse) and his 
great years with Tom Thumb, Jenny Lind, and Jumbo the 
Elephant were still ahead of him. Barnum, accused of hoax 
and faced with failure, was grateful for stories Anne had pub- 
lished in his defense. He came to pay his respects, and left to 
record in his diary a striking portrait of this "celebrated per- 
sonage . . . the most garrulous old woman I ever saw." 

According to Barnum, Anne mistook him for Congressman 
Claiborne of Mississippi. When his identity was straightened 
out, Anne explained that she had been expecting several mem- 
bers of the House of Representatives. 

"All the congressmen call on me," she said with pride. 
"They do not dare do otherwise. Enemies and friends all 
alike, they have to come to me. And why should they not? I 
made them every devil of them. You see how I look, ragged 
and poor, but thank God I am saucy and independent. The 
whole government is afraid of me, and well they may be. I 
know them all, from top to toe I can fathom their rascality, 
through all its ins and outs, from the beginning to the end. 
By the way, Barnum, whom do you support for president 
and vice-president?" 

Cheerfully Barnum replied that he thought he would vote 
for Martin Van Buren and Richard M. Johnson. Anne turned 
purple. "I have seen some fearful things in my day some 
awful explosions of tempestuous passion," Barnum recalled 
later, "but never have I witnessed such another terrible tem- 
pest of fury as burst from Mrs. Anne Royall." 

Sputtering, she fell upon him. "My God! my God! is it 
possible? Will you support such a monkey, such a scoundrel, 
such a villain, such a knave, such an enemy to his country, as 

( 263 ) 

The Square Pegs 

Martin Van Buren! Barnum, you are a scoundrel, a traitor, a 
rascal, a hypocrite! You are a spy, an electioneering fool, and 
I hope the next vessel you put foot on will sink with you." 

Bewildered by the terrible onslaught, Barnurn forced an 
uneasy laugh, as if to tell her she was teasing him. But she 
was not teasing him. 

"Oh, you villain! laugh, will you? when your country is 
in danger! Oh, you don't believe it, but let me tell you, the 
conspirators know too much to let you foolish Yankees into 
their secret. Remember, I was once with them, and I know 
all about it." 

"Why, Anne, you must acknowledge there are some good 
people in our ranks." 

"No, I don't. There's not one devil of you who cares a 
cent for his country. You would not give a farthing to save 
it from destruction. See how I live! see how I work to save 
my country! I am at work every moment see my house 
see, I have no bed to lie on no anything and then you tell 
about loving your country! Oh, you deserve to be lynched, 
every devil of you!" 

After a half hour more of similar harangue, through which 
Barnum sat benumbed, Anne finally ran out of breath and 
invective. Her voice reduced to a mere shout, she studied 
Barnum a moment, and then suddenly apologized. 

"Well, Barnum," she said, "you are a good fellow, and I 
am really glad to see you. How sorry I am that we mentioned 
politics, for I am so nervous. Now, I want a real good talk 
with you. . . . Come, Barnum, go with me into the printing 
office, and there we can talk and work together." 

In the printing office, where a man and a boy were at the 
press, a large pile of wrapped newspapers lay in the middle 
of the floor. Anne commanded Barnum to sit with her and 
help sort them. "Anne then seated herself upon the dirty floor, 
and as there was no chair in the room, I sat down beside her, 
not daring even to spread my handkerchief or in any way re- 
move the dust, lest she should construe it into an insult." For 

( 264) 

The Editor Who Was a Common Scold 

a half hour more they assorted papers as Anne rattled on, 
recounting various incidents of her long life. When he could 
get in a word, Barnum wondered if he might sponsor her on a 
lecture tour through the East. She was not interested. When 
he left, she extracted his promise to call again. But thereafter, 
still shaken, he gave her a wide berth and admitted that he 
"never again met the eccentric old lady." 

In November 1836, inexplicably, Paul Pry which, said 
The New England Religious Weekly, "contains all the scum, 
billingsgate and filth extant" ceased publication, only to be 
supplanted a month later by a more conservative weekly 
called The Huntress. This new conservatism, intended to in- 
crease circulation by a decrease in muckracking, did not ex- 
tend to the treatment of anti-Masons or Evangelicals. The 
smaller pages did little to confine the editor's temper. Nor 
did her advancing years and growing infirmity mellow her 
opinion. When there was protest against Catholic immigra- 
tion, Anne saw at once that the real threat lay in the tyranny 
of the overpatriotic, and she cried out against them in The 
Huntress: "A Catholic foreigner discovered America, Cath- 
olic foreigners first settled it. ... When the colonies were 
about to be enslaved, foreigners rescued it. ... At present, 
we verily believe, that the liberty of this country is in more 
danger from this native combination than from foreigners." 

For more than a decade she continued to occupy herself 
with The Huntress. Circulation was small, and she barely 
made ends meet. Once, she wrote a three-act play, The Cab- 
inet: or, Large Parties in Washington, and Joseph Jefferson's 
father agreed to produce it. On opening night, with tickets 
already sold, the show was canceled because of pressure 
brought to bear by church groups and anti-Masons. Though 
Masons came to her rescue, and gave the play one perform- 
ance in their hall, it proved a financial disappointment. Above 
all, Anne persisted in her pension fight. When, at last, acting 
on an affidavit supplied by Lafayette, Congress conceded that 
Captain Royall had served the Revolution and that Anne had 

( 265 ) 

The Square Pegs 

indeed been his wife, the petition was rejected because Anne 
had been married in 1797 and the law provided benefits only 
to widows who had been married before 1794. But in 1848 
Congress liberalized the statute of limitations, and Anne's 
excruciating, twenty-four-year struggle was capped by vic- 
tory. She was offered the choice of a $480 annuity for life or 
a total payment of f 1,200. As she was seventy-nine years old, 
ill, and in debt, she took the lump sum of $1,200. It was a 
mistake. She would live six years more. When her obligations 
were met and a new printing press installed, she was left with 
three dollars. 

In 1854, aged eighty-five, she was still on the job. When 
she wanted to interview President Pierce, she was invited to 
the White House. She may have reflected on how the times 
had changed. It was a quarter of a century since she had been 
obliged to trap another president in the nude to obtain her 
story. Pierce was friendly, and her account of the visit in The 
Huntress was kind: 

"He looked stout and healthy but rather pale. His coun- 
tenance used to be gay and full of vivacity when he was a 
Senator in Congress several years ago, but now it wears a 
calm and dignified composure, tinctured with a pleasing mel- 
ancholy. . . . We could not refrain from dropping a tear 
when he spoke to us of his lady, after whose health we in- 
quired. The sad bereavement she met with in the sudden loss 
of her only and beloved boy has shadowed the bright walks 
which surround the Presidential Mansion." 

It was her last major story. On Sunday morning, October 
i, 1854, she died in her sleep. "To the hour of her death," 
noted the Washington Star, "she preserved all the peculiarities 
of thought, temper, and manners, which at one time rendered 
her so famous throughout the land." She was laid to rest in 
the Congressional Cemetery. There was no money for a 
gravestone. Her total legacy amounted to thirty-one cents. 

( 266 ) 


The First in the East 

"7 wans to make my Enemy s grin In time Lik A 
Cat over A hot pudding and gone Away and 
hang there heads Doun Like A Dogg. . . ." 


The year 1 802 was a lusterless one in American literature. 
In that twelve-month period no novel or work of non- 
fiction gained widespread popularity or gave promise of any 
degree of permanence. Two years earlier, in 1800, Mason 
Weems, a traveling bookseller and part-time preacher nick- 
named the Parson, had produced a success with his Life of 
George Washington; with Curious Anecdotes, Equally 
Honourable to Himself and Exemplary to His Young Coun- 
trymen. In 1809, two volumes of A History of New York, 
by Washington Irving, were printed in New York, and were 
given a friendly reception and attained a moderate sale. But 
between these years lay 1802, a reproach to Yankee creativity 
and a barren island for book lovers. 

Yet there are people well versed in curiosa who will dis- 
pute the last, who will insist that in the year 1802 American 
literature had one of its finest hours. And perhaps, after all, 
they are right. Certainly 1802 provided a volume that may 
still be regarded as one of the most unusual ever published in 
the United States. 

It was not a best seller though its author had "thousands" 
of copies printed and distributed free of charge with his com- 
pliments. This distribution, as well as the curiosity of the 

( 267 ) 

The Square Pegs 

book's content, stimulated wide interest. Public demand for 
the volume grew until a market price of one dollar a copy 
was established. Through the years that followed, there were 
at least eight new printings of the work. 

It was not, it might be added, a book of enduring literary 
quality though a century and a half later, erudite readers 
might find their discussions enlivened by the tome's futuristic 
approach, and groups of select bibliophiles might continue to 
chuckle over its oddity. 

The first edition was brought off the presses in Salem, 
Massachusetts, and doled out to all takers from a vast Geor- 
gian mansion in Newburyport whose grounds were decorated 
with forty life-sized wooden statues of such celebrities as 
Horatio Nelson, Adam and Eve, George Washington, Louis 
XIV, and the author himself. The book measured four inches 
by six. Its twenty-four pages of prose were bound in soft 
covers. The title page was conservative enough: 

A Pickle -for the Knowing Ones: or Plain Truths in a 
Homes-pun Dress by Timothy Dexter, Esq . . . Salem: 
Printed For The Author. 2802. 

It must be remarked at once that of freak books in litera- 
ture there has been no end. Their quaint procession has been 
well documented by Holbrook Jackson and Walter Hart 
Blumenthal. In the two centuries before Timothy Dexter's 
publication, and in the years since, literature has been exhil- 
arated often, and debased infrequently, by eccentricity in the 
print shop or the author's study. In France once appeared a 
book entitled Nothing, by Mathela, which contained, appro- 
priately, two hundred blank pages. Less amusing, as Carlyle 
would have it, was the appearance of the second edition of 
Jean Jacques Rousseau's Social Contract, supposedly bound 
with the skins of French aristocrats who had laughed at his 
first edition. In England, in 1634, appeared The Feminin 
Monarchi, or the Histori of Bees, by Charles Butler, all set 
down in phonetic spelling, and, in 1866, an edition of Pilgrim's 
Progress written and printed in Pitman's shorthand. In Arner- 

The First in the East 

ica the reading public was astounded, in 1835, by Francis 
Glass's Washington Vita, a biography entirely in Latin, and 
no less astounded five years later by the publication, in New 
York, of Dentologia: A Poem on the Diseases of the Teeth. 
In Five Cantos, by Solyman Brown. By 1881 the reading pub- 
lic hardly lifted its collective brow when the book shops ad- 
vertised a science-fiction novel entitled / / /, by George Hep- 
worth. But before all these, in America at least, came A Pickle 
-for the Knowing Ones, by Timothy Dexter. His assault on 
credulity was the first and perhaps the very best. 

When the well-read New Englander of 1802 opened his 
copy of A Pickle -for the Knowing Ones, he found that the 
entire book was one long sentence or, rather, no sentence at 
all. Not a single comma, semicolon, quotation mark, apos- 
trophe, exclamation point, or period marred its half-coherent 
text. Grammatically, it was without beginning or end. 
Thought melted into thought without stop. Like the universe, 
like time itself, it emerged from infinity and receded into 
infinity. Its organization was nonexistent. It was chaotic. 
Dexter literally wrote what came into his head, and what he 
put to paper antedated automatic writing and free-association 

However, if the author ignored punctuation completely, he 
was lavish with capital letters. Words were capitalized 
throughout, even if they were the wrong words. The names 
of men and places were often demoted to lower case. A con- 
glomeration of adverbs, adjectives, and verbs was elevated to 
upper case. Only one word was consistently capitalized 
sensibly enough, the pronoun /. As to spelling, it might be 
better to draw a veil over the entire subject. Dexter's spelling 
was entirely by ear, by mood, by whim. Sometimes it was 
accomplished phonetically, more often by Divine Right. 

"I Command pease and the gratest brotherly Love," said 
Dexter, supporting his plan for a United States of the World. 
He suggested that "nasions" all "be Linked to gether with 
that best of troue Love so as to govern all nasions on the fass 

( 269 ) 

The Square Pegs 

of the gloub not to tiranize over them but to put them to 
order if any Despout shall A Rise . . ." In the jungle of 
Dexter's orthography the reader met strange, half-familiar 
creatures like "Jorge washeton," who was once George Wash- 
ington, and a mr bourr," who had been better known as Aaron 
Burr; he came across rarely seen sites like "plimeth," which 
had been Plymouth and "Nouebry Port," which had resem- 
blance to Newburyport; he saw but not before passing a 
hand over his eyes "a toue Leged Creter," which was only 
a two-legged creature, "A Scoyer," who was merely an 
"onnest" squire, and several "Rougs," who proved to be 
harmless rogues, all this before sitting down to partake of 
"Loovs & Littel fishes," which could be better digested when 
known to be loaves and little fish. This was the style and the 
form of A Pickle "for the Knowing Ones. It might have given 
pause even to Jean Frangois Champollion, conqueror of the 
Rosetta stone. 

Timothy Dexter realized his mistake at once. A book with- 
out punctuation was hardly a book at all. He sought to correct 
this lapse. By some means possibly in a second printing now 
lost, or in a separate pamphlet, or in a letter to the editor of 
the local newspaper Dexter added one more page to his 
book. This page was bound in all printings after 1838. The 
addition, which appeared at the very end of his philosophical 
autobiography, secured Dexter his literary immortality. It 
read as follows: 

fourder mister printer the Nowing ones complane of my 
book the fust edition had no stops I put in A nuf here and 
thay may peper and solt it as they please 

( 270 ) 

The First in the East 


With this generous oifering of punctuation, Timothy Dex- 
ter anticipated the vogue of do-it-yourself in the mid-twen- 
tieth century. It was a stroke of genius, this offering to the 
restless and overenergized reader an opportunity for therapy, 
a chance to work with his hands and his wits by peppering 
and salting the virginal book with punctuation. Surely, too, 
though he could not know it, and though he had no literary 
pretensions, Dexter anticipated, perhaps pioneered, an entire 
new school of writing. Imitators and converts followed in 
abundance. Just thirteen years after A Pickle -for the Kno f w- 
ing Ones appeared, there was published in England a two- 
volume work called The Elements of Geometry by the Rev- 
erend J. Dobson. The Reverend's hand faltered only at the 
end of paragraphs, when he laid down periods. Otherwise, 
his mathematical prose was as denuded of punctuation as Dex- 
ter's. It was not until another age with the emergence of 
Knowing Ones like Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and E. E. 
Cummings that Dexter's advanced method, his lack of stops, 
his erratic capitalizations, his abstract approach, his stream- 
of-consciousness style, came into full flower and found wide 

In Dexter's own time his avant-garde effort was less ap- 
preciated. While his little book amused, even charmed, a few 
of the more tolerant and discriminating readers in America, 
its general tone provoked only irritation, especially in his own 
community. Those neighbors who had thought him a lunatic 
for earlier indiscretions were now positive of it mainly be- 
cause A Pickle for the Kno'wing Ones was an egotistical, 

( 271 ) 

The Square Pegs 

opinionated, coarse defense of Dexter, by Dexter, against all 
"Enemys" who were anti-Dexter. 

The book opened with a flat declaration by its author of 
his own importance and his right to be heard. "line the first 
Lord in the younited States of A mercary Now of Newbury- 
port it is the voise of the peopel and I cant Help it and so 
Let it goue Now as I must be Lord there will foller many 
more Lords pretty soune for it dont hurt A Cat Nor the 
mouse Nor the son Nor the water Nor the Eare . . ." 

Before the befuddled reader could recover, the author hur- 
riedly outlined his plan for a great "Dexters mouseum." The 
museum, already begun, would feature wooden replicas of 
the most famous figures in history not only the author him- 
self, but "mister pitt" and "the king of grat britton" and 
even "Loues the 16" of France. It would, Dexter promised, 
be one of the "grate Wonders of the world." 

Now the book became more autobiographical. "How Did 
Dexter make his money ye says . . ." He told how he made 
it by shipping warming pans to the West Indies, among 
other speculative follies. He told how much money he made. 
He gloated over the percentages of his profits. Next he dis- 
cussed improvements that he contemplated on his house. Then 
he digressed on one "Bonne partey the grat," who turned 
out to be Bonaparte the Great. There followed a discussion 
of the tomb the author had built for himself, with a list of 
its peculiar furnishings, some invective against politicians, 
priests, the devil, and college men, and an indignant recital 
of how a lawyer once tried to beat him up. After that, there 
was a learned discourse on the three bridges spanning the 
Merrimack, some angry words on why the author had sepa- 
rated from his wife and come to regard her as a ghost "I 
have bin in hell 35 years in this world with the gost" and 
an announcement that his house would soon be for sale. There 
was a modest hint that the author might make a good Emperor 
of the United States, a reminiscence of his youth, a suggestion 
for the names of his pallbearers, and, for a change of pace, 
the inclusion of two funny stories. 


engraved -from life m 1805 by James Akin 

The First in the East 

What did contemporary critics, and those who followed, 
think of all this? 

Samuel Lorenzo Knapp, who knew Dexter and became his 
Boswell, thought that A Fickle -for the Knowing Ones pre- 
served "all the sarws, shreds and patches that ever entered the 
head of a 'motley fool.' " An anonymous critic for the Na- 
tional Aegis was even less kind. "For what purpose are riches 
given to some men," he wondered, "unless to display in more 
glowing colours the disgusting deformities of their Charac- 
ters? ... In his Tickle for the knowing ones' he had ef- 
fectually preserved the full grown -fruits of his nonsense." 
After the author's death the Newburyport Impartial Herald, 
which had once praised the book, did an about-face. Dexter's 
"ruling passion appeared to be popularity, and one would sup- 
pose he rather chose to render his name 'infamously famous 
than not famous at all.' His writings stand as a monument of 
the truth of this remark; for those who have read his Tickle 
for the Knowing Ones,' a jumble of letters promiscuously 
gathered together, find it difficult to determine whether most 
to laugh at the consummate folly, or despise the vulgarity and 
profanity of the writer." Mrs. E. Vale Smith, preparing her 
History of Newburyport for publication in 1854, discussed 
Dexter and his book with many persons who had met him. 
Of the book she could only think that it was "a final effort 
for posthumous fame," and of the author she could only 
remark that his "vices were profanity, a want of veracity, 
and irreverence, while his execrable taste led him into such 
vicious displays as were calculated to have an injurious effect, 
especially upon the young." 

But reaction was not all one-sided. In 1802 the Newbury- 
port Impartial Herald had thought that Dexter's book would 
"be a valuable acquisition to the lovers of knowledge and polite 
literature." The passage of years brought others into the fold. 
Oliver Wendell Holmes was charmed by the "famous little 
book." He wrote of Dexter: "As an inventor of a new Ameri- 
can style, he goes far beyond Mr. Whitman, who, to be sure, 
cares little for the dictionary ... I am afraid that Mr. Emer- 

( 273 ) 

The Square Pegs 

son and Mr. Whitman must yield the claim of declaring 
American literary independence to Lord Timothy Dexter, 
who not only taught his countrymen that they need not go 
to the Herald's College to authenticate their titles of nobility, 
but also that they were at perfect liberty to spell just as 
they liked, and to write without troubling themselves about 
stops of any kind." In 1925 J. P. Marquand became a prose- 
lyte. "In all seriousness," he said, "this bold Dexterian effort 
actually possesses a style of its own, which all its faults com- 
bine to give it, a strength and characteristic vivacity that many 
more accomplished penmen and spellers have tried in vain to 
achieve. Every page, every line has an utter naturalness that 
is refreshing to a jaded taste." 

Unfortunately, A Pickle for the Knowing Ones outlived 
its author. Few encyclopedias and biographical dictionaries 
remembered him. One that did called him that "Machiavellian 
parvenu and avowed toper" who became "an incomparable 
literary figure." Parvenu he was, and toper and literary figure, 
too. But he was considerably more. He dwelt in an age of 
much eccentricity among the great, but few great eccentrics. 
The earliest days of the republic were serious days. Men were 
strait-laced and dedicated and often humorless. There was 
little time or patience for the nonconformist. It surprised no 
one that Thomas Paine called his second book Common 
Sense. Men like John Randolph, Israel Putnam, and William 
Franklin were individuals in their ideas and in their habits, 
but they were not eccentrics. They conformed to the ways 
of colonial society. They went along. Timothy Dexter did 
not go along. He was his own planet and his own civiliza- 
tion. Or, more accurately, when a new nation was formed, 
he did not join it. If the flag of the infant republic had thirteen 
stars, one had surely been omitted. For Timothy Dexter was 
the fourteenth. 

In the New England Historical md Genealogical Register 
it is recorded that "Nathan Dexter of Maiden & Esther 

( 274) 

The First in the East 

Brintnall of Chelsea" were married in the latter part of June 
1744. There had been Dexters in Maiden, Massachusetts, 
since the first Dexter had emigrated from Ireland almost a 
century before. With the marriage of Nathan and Esther 
Dexter, the family line would remain unbroken. Nine months 
and two weeks after their wedding, they produced a son, 
Nathan, followed two years later by a second son, Timothy, 
and two years after that by a daughter named Esther. 

Timothy Dexter's birth was auspicious or so he always 
insisted. He was born on the morning of January 22, 1747, 
while a snowstorm raged outdoors. The constellations were 
so situated in the heavens on that day that young Dexter 
later became convinced he was "to be one grat man." Nothing 
is known of his father's occupation except that it brought 
little income. It is thought that young Dexter was exposed 
to a limited amount of schooling. 

In May 1755, when he was eight years old, Timothy Dexter 
was sent to work on a farm in Maiden. This move not only 
lightened the burden on the impoverished Dexter family, but 
also gave the second-born adequate board and keep as well as 
instruction in a means of livelihood. Timothy Dexter remained 
a farm laborer for six and a half years. Then, aged fourteen, 
eager to acquire a trade that held more promise of profit, 
he left the farm forever and traveled to Charleston, South 
Carolina, to become an apprentice leather-dresser. In "Chals- 
ton," he recalled, "I stayed Leven months at Dressin of skins 
for briches & glovs then went to boston there stayed till 
I was free . . ." 

In Boston, a bustling metropolis of 17,000 persons, Dexter 
resumed his apprenticeship. Leather-dressing was a popular 
craft in those times, and much in demand, but the work was 
harsh and exhausting. For seven years Dexter toiled amid the 
stench of hides and tannin, sleeping and living in a cramped 
hovel and eating his employer's leftover food, until at last 
his servitude was ended. His employer bestowed the tradi- 
tional freedom-suit upon him, as a mark of his graduation and 

( 275 ) 

The Square Pegs 

his maturity. The garment was, apparently, a splendid one, 
for Dexter always remembered it as made of "guinea Cloth" 
worth five shillings sterling a yard. 

The moment Dexter was on his own, he disposed of the 
suit. He was ambitious, and he needed ready cash. He offered 
the suit to a Boston vendor, who disagreed with him sharply 
about its value. "I was angry," admitted Dexter, but in the 
end he sold the suit for "Eight Dolors & 20 sents." This mod- 
est sum, he was confident, would lay the foundation for his 

His goal was the thriving community of Newburyport, 
Massachusetts. Only six years earlier Newburyport had be- 
come an incorporated town after 206 of its "water-side peo- 
ple" petitioned to be "set off from Newbury." By 1769 its 
population was upwards of 2,300. The extensive shipbuilding 
activity in the one-square-mile seaport, encouraged by the 
British, provided employment for carpenters, blacksmiths, 
painters, and rope-makers. Warehouses were stuffed with local 
farm produce, cheaply made gold-plated beads, and rum, 
which would be exchanged for English calico, cutlery, and 
sugar. The general prosperity made retail shops in the com- 
munity flourish. Individual fortunes were being amassed 
quickly, and the Yankee inhabitants were beginning to dwell 
in the splendor which they had so long admired in their Eng- 
lish betters. Here, if any, was the place for a strong young 
enterprising leather-dresser. In the two weeks that elapsed 
between the time Dexter left his apprenticeship and the time 
he arrived in Newburyport, his confidence grew. "I had faith 
by reading A book," he said. "I was to have this world's 
goods and be Come grate and be Amonkest grat men in the 
East . . ." 

The forty miles from Boston to Newburyport by way of 
Salem and Rowley took Dexter a day or two, on foot, "with 
A bondel in my hand" and what remained of eight dollars 
and twenty cents in his pocket. 

Within a year after setting foot in Newburyport he had 

( 276 ) 

The First in the East 

acquired property, a wife, a family, and a business, in the 
order named. Land records of the period indicate that by early 
1770 he was dealing in Salem real estate, and, with a partner 
named Mulliken, had acquired mortgaged property in Chester. 
Where he obtained the capital for these transactions in so 
short a time, we do not know. He had little means. In re- 
ferring to Dexter's first Newburyport year, when he was but 
twenty-three, William C. Todd wrote: "I remember a few 
years ago an old gentleman told me that his father was as- 
sociated with Dexter, and related anecdotes of him when poor, 
and living in an humble way as a leather dresser in one of 
the poor sections of town." 

Though Dexter possessed few assets beyond a trade and 
some mortgaged property, and though he yet displayed little 
business acumen, one person in the town saw a good prospect 
in him. This was the widow Frothingham. She had been the 
daughter of Deacon John Lord, of Exeter, New Hampshire, 
when she married a Newbury glazier named Benjamin Froth- 
ingham. In June 1769 the glazier, aged fifty-two, died. His 
departure, it might be noted, coincided closely with Dexter's 
arrival in the community. Elizabeth Frothingham, aged thirty- 
one, was left in "good circumstances" with her house on the 
Merrimack River and her four children. In May 1770, after 
eleven months of widowhood, Mrs. Frothingham was 
wedded to Timothy Dexter, nine years her junior. 

In acquiring a bride, Dexter also acquired a residence. He 
had a place for business at last. Immediately he decorated 
the entrance to the house with a glove carved of wood and 
opened his leather-dressing shop in the basement. He pro- 
duced gloves, breeches, and morocco leather, and he sold 
hides. Upstairs, the thrifty and industrious Mrs. Dexter took 
in mending and conducted a huckster's store. However, all ac- 
tivity in the residence was not of a commercial nature. In 
1772 the Dexters had a son named Samuel, and in 1776 a 
daughter named Nancy. 

The shot fired at Lexington in April 1775 and heard round 

( 277 ) 

The Square Pegs 

the world was heard by all but Timothy Dexter. When, 
through 1776, the Revolutionary War sparked and sputtered 
near and about him, Timothy Dexter was above the battle. 
Though the great homes of Newburyport were soon over- 
furnished with the loot won by hastily commissioned pri- 
vateers who preyed upon British shipping, Timothy Dexter 
confined his ambitions and his labors to his basement shop. 
In April 1776 he was calmly advertising "Good Deer Sheep 
and Moose skins. Likewise Deer Sheep and Moose Skin 
Breeches, and a quantity of good Blubber." 

In that same year Dexter was elected to his first and last 
municipal post by popular plebiscite. He was made Informer 
of Deer. Though still a nonentity, he may have been elevated 
to the august seat because of the shortage of manpower. Pos- 
sibly, too, the office may have been an expression of grate- 
fulness by fellow patriots for modest donations he had made 
to the town's welfare. Or, it could have been a joke perpe- 
trated by many who already suspected that their leather- 
dresser had comic qualities. Certainly there was an element of 
irony in electing a leather-dresser, whose livelihood was won 
by preserving deerskins, to the task of seeing that deers kept 
their skins. 

The elective post that Dexter held for years made few de- 
mands on his energies and fortunately so. By the time Corn- 
wallis had surrendered his sword to Washington at Yorktown, 
Dexter had saved "several thousand dollars" and was busily 
casting about for a speculation that might make him his for- 
tune. He found it soon enough. 

The peace that followed the successful Revolution was an 
uneasy one. While the thirteen states wrangled over ratifica- 
tion of the new constitution, their citizens suffered from a 
growing economic depression. In Massachusetts exports 
dropped 75 per cent. Not only was trade stagnant, but also 
the torn young government was buckling under war debts. 
One of the most immediate problems for the average man 
was the depreciation of state securities and federal currency. 

( 278 ) 

The First in the East 

It was in this monetary travail that the phrase "not worth 
a Continental" originated. 

The legend on a federal bill gave promise of sound, solvent 
government: "Continental Currency. Twenty Dollars. This 
Bill entitles the Bearer to receive Twenty Spanish milled Dol- 
lars, or the Value thereof in Gold or Silver, according to 
the Resolutions of the Congress, held at Philadelphia, the 
loth of May, 1775." In less than a decade this scrip was hardly 
worth the paper it was printed on. With inflation it required 
five of these Continental twenty-dollar bills to purchase a 
single cheap calico dress, and bales of the currency to pur- 
chase goods or property of real value. Veterans of Valley 
Forge and Bunker Hill had been paid off in this now almost 
worthless money. Ordinary citizens had patriotically invested 
much of their earnings in now depreciated state bonds. In- 
habitants of Newburyport were among the hardest hit. Many 
had invested in Massachusetts securities, which rapidly lost 
value until they were worth only "about two shillings and 
sixpence on the pound." 

This crisis inspired Timothy Dexter's most decisive gam- 
ble. Gathering together all the hard cash he could lay his 
hands upon, his savings of years and his protesting wife's as- 
sets, he began to buy up the seemingly worthless Continental 
currency and state securities. With good money, he bought 
bad. He gave one gold dollar for perhaps five or ten or 
twenty Continental dollars. In cash he was soon poor. In 
paper, and on paper, he was wealthy beyond his wildest fan- 
cies. Yet, what he had bargained for, and now possessed, was 
truly not worth a Continental. Why had this perspiring tan- 
ner, this frugal caretaker of six dependents, this solid and 
stable Informer of Deer, taken so mad a risk? 

Most historians pay lip service to the judgment of Samuel 
Lorenzo Knapp, who had simply maintained that Dexter was 
a lucky fool. Knapp's knowledge of Dexter was such that 
few who wrote after him dared to contradict him. For Samuel 
Knapp knew Dexter personally. As a matter of fact, Knapp 

( 279 ) 

The Square Pegs 

was born in Newburyport shortly before the Continental 
o-amble. Though he had been educated at Dartmouth, had 
studied in France, and had practiced law in Boston, he spent 
much of his time in Newburyport. Once he even went to 
jail there for debt. It was in jail that Knapp seriously under- 
took a literary career. He wrote the first biography of Daniel 
Webster. He wrote lives of General Lafayette, De Witt Clin- 
ton, and Aaron Burr. Finally, in the very last year of his life, 
he put to paper the story of Timothy Dexter. His Life of 
Timothy Dexter appeared thirty years after its subject's 
death. In it Knapp revealed that he had spoken to Dexter 
frequently and that his book was based on "memoranda made 
many years ago." According to Knapp's memoranda, Dexter, 
in his currency investments, had idiotically and blindly aped 
the investments of others, unaware that they had been moti- 
vated by philanthropy rather than profit. 

"Two benevolent gentlemen in Boston, John Hancock, 
governor of the commonwealth at the time, who had for- 
merly been president of the continental congress, and Thomas 
Russel, the most eminent merchant then in America, to keep 
up the public confidence and to oblige a friend would make 
purchases of these securities until the amount was consider- 
able, 5 ' recorded Knapp. "This had the desired effect in some 
measure, and a few other purchasers were found, but hard 
money was so scarce that not much was done in this broker- 
age. Dexter, finding his great neighbors, Hancock and Russel, 
doing something in stocks, took all his own cash with what 
his wife had, and in imitation purchased likewise. He prob- 
ably made better bargains than the magnates did. He 
bought in smaller quantities, and had better opportunities to 
make his purchases than they had. He felt he could live on 
his industry, and ventured all on the chance of these securities 
ever being paid." 

Not until 1887 did anyone challenge Knapp's assertion that 
Dexter had blundered into his riches by "imitation" of "two 
benevolent gentlemen in Boston." In that year William C. 

( 280) 

The First in the East 

Todd, writing in the Neiv England Historical and Genea- 
logical Register, cast a stern eye on the "patriotism" of Han- 
cock and Russell. He implied, though he did not state, that 
Hancock, Russell, and a number of other members of Con- 
gress were attempting to profiteer on inside information that 
the government would soon assume state debts, redeem state 
bonds, and stabilize wartime currency. Todd made it plain 
that Dexter had as much knowledge or foresight as Hancock 
and Russell and as much daring, in attempting to make 
"money out of the depreciated securities of the government 
and state." 

"The Dexter ... of Knapp's Life and of common belief, 
the fool who made his money by senseless speculations that 
always turned out well, is a fiction," Todd contended. "The 
real Dexter, with all of his folly, acquired his property as 
other people do by prudence, industry and business sagacity, 
which gave him a fortune for that period." Todd readily ad- 
mitted that Dexter was "a vain, uneducated, weak, coarse, 
drunken, cunning man, low in his tastes and habits, constantly 
striving for foolish display and attention." But he reiterated 
that Dexter, for all his foolishness, was possessed of a "business 
shrewdness, to which, and not to luck, he owed his success." 

When Dexter at last possessed his huge hoarding of paper 
currency, he waited nervously for news that it might be re- 
deemed at par. It was a suspenseful and painful interlude, 
inasmuch as Dexter was constantly scolded by his wife and 
chided by his neighbors for his stupidity. In this harrowing 
period Dexter had eyes and ears for only one name and one 
man. His entire future was staked on the political talents 
and persuasiveness of brilliant, handsome, young Alexander 
Hamilton, Washington's first secretary of the Treasury. 

Hamilton, who championed big government, big industry, 
big cities, and big banks, was strongly opposed by Washing- 
ton's secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who visualized 
America as a more temperate agrarian nation. Timothy Dex- 
ter's hopes rode on Hamilton's vast funding plan, which Jef- 

( 281 ) 

The Square Pegs 

f erson's Southern friends disliked. Hamilton advocated a Bank 
of the United States to issue paper money and to keep it 
stable, and he wanted the $18,000,000 in bonds that had been 
printed and sold by the various states and the $52,000,000 
worth of bonds that had been issued by the federal govern- 
ment to be funded at full face value. Fie insisted that this 
was a matter of honor and good business. The House of Rep- 
resentatives voted the measure down. 

Undiscouraged by the rebuff, Hamilton met Jefferson over 
dinner and proposed a horse trade. If Jefferson would en- 
courage Virginia legislators to back the assumption bill, Ham- 
ilton would find New York legislators to support the estab- 
lishment of the national capital on the Potomac River, a step 
that Jefferson much desired. Jefferson agreed to the deal, to 
his subsequent regret. In a short time Hamilton's assumption 
bill was pushed through Congress. Hamilton's friends and 
colleagues, as well as speculators, made $40,000,000 profit 
by cashing in the securities and currency that had so recently 
been called trash. And overnight Timothy Dexter, of New- 
buryport, was a wealthy man. 

His first reaction to sudden riches was a belief that they 
made him the equal of all other men with money, no matter 
what their ancestry or station. He felt that he belonged in 
the dazzling world of the Hancocks and Russells. It is thought 
that he tried to enter Boston society, but without success. 
Next he attempted to mingle with the older families of Salem, 
and again was snubbed. Finally he returned to Newburyport, 
fully confident that he would be accepted in its better social 
circles. There were, indeed, people worth cultivating in the 
seaport town. John Quincy Adams, after he became president, 
often recalled his days as a law student in Newburyport and 
always thought its society better than that of Washington. 

"Most of the leading families were but one generation re- 
moved from the plough or the forecastle," Samuel Eliot Mori- 
son has pointed out, "but they had acquired wealth before 
the Revolution, and conducted social matters with the grace 

( 282 > 

The First in the East 

and dignity of an old regime. . . . We read of weekly balls 
and routs, of wedding coaches drawn by sk white horses with 
liveried footmen, in this town of less than eight thousand 
inhabitants." This was the society Dexter longed to join. True, 
he had made his thousands after the Revolution, and by means 
which many of his fellows resented, but nevertheless he was 
rich. However, mere riches were not enough. His social su- 
periors neither answered his cordial invitations nor offered 
invitations of their own. Once more Dexter was ignored. 

This time he decided to fight back. Gold evidently was 
not enough. One needed tradition and roots. But could these 
be bought? Dexter thought that they could. It was still a 
period of depression, and real estate was cheap. One of the 
very best houses in Newburyport, in all New England in 
fact, the large brick mansion on State Street owned by the 
famous Nathaniel Tracy, was on the market at a price far 
below its value. Dexter snatched at the bargain. Within two 
days the great Tracy was out and the appalling Dexter was 
in and all Newburyport society was struck speechless. 

To appreciate the dumfounded silence with which this 
move was met, one must know the man who had been re- 
placed by a half -literate leather-dresser. Nathaniel Tracy, two 
years younger than Dexter, had been born to wealth, had 
been graduated from Harvard at the age of twenty, and had 
returned to Newburyport to become a merchant as his father 
had been before him. Forming a partnership with the clever 
and genteel Jonathan Jackson, young Tracy had employed 
a fleet of sailing ships for exporting and importing. With the 
revolt against the British at its height in 1775, Tracy applied 
to the General Court of Massachusetts for license to convert 
his merchant ships into privateers. The British were caught 
unprepared by this legalized piracy, and Tracy's flotilla cap- 
tured 120 English vessels and almost $4,000,000 worth of 
cargo. The profits were staggering. Tracy built the magnifi- 
cent square brick-house on State Street, furnished the interior 
with carved banisters, gilded mirrors, liveried Negro servants, 

( 283 ) 

The Square Pegs 

and a fully stocked wine cellar. He entertained with dignity 
and elegance. "He was," remarked a neighbor, "a gentleman 
of polished manners and fine taste." But the day of reckoning 
came soon. 

George III commanded his finest frigates and heavy-gunned 
vessels to the colonial war. The Yankee privateers were swept 
from the seas. Of the 24 privateers owned by Tracy and 
Jackson, 23 fell into enemy hands. Of the no merchant 
ships they owned, 97 were captured or destroyed by the Brit- 
ish. At least $3,000,000 in cargoes was lost. And though Tracy 
had lent his embattled government $160,000, and had sold 
the Army clothing and supplies on credit, he could obtain 
none of his investment back at war's end. Soon he could no 
longer support the house. He retired to a rented farm in the 
country, while Timothy Dexter moved into State Street and 
a new era was ushered in for Newburyport. 

With quiet desperation, Dexter tried to emulate Tracy. He 
spared no expense in furnishing the house. He attired himself 
in the manner befitting a gentleman of means. He rode 
through town in a splendid coach drawn by two horses. He 
rode through town and he rode back again. There was no one 
of importance to see. No one of importance came to see him. 
He discovered Tracy's wine cellar, stocked it with the choicest 
European imports, as well as with the locally made Laird's 
ale and porter and the best whiskeys and rum produced by 
Newburyport's many distilleries. Amid his bottles he lan- 
guished in high spirits, and when he emerged he was a new 
man. No longer would he try to be Tracy. Henceforth he 
would be himself and one day, yet, he would make his 
neighbors "hang there heads Doun Like A Dogg." 

Hides and tannin were things of the past. He aspired higher. 
Salem land records still give evidence of Timothy Dexter's 
rise. The earliest conveyances identify him as a "leather 
dresser." Later, he is a "trader," then a "merchant," and fi- 
nally, at retirement, a "gentleman." After his acquisition of 
the brick house, Dexter directed his energies toward the world 

( 284) 

The First in the East 

of commerce. In 1790 he built the ryi-ton brig Mehitabel, 
and two years later the 15 3-ton Congress. He exported goods 
to Europe and the Indies, West and East, and his wealth multi- 
plied and his fame grew. But the Dexter legend was not 
created by the profits he made. It was created, rather, out 
of the means he employed to make these profits. 

Timothy Dexter sent coals to Newcastle. He sent warming 
pans and woolen mittens to the semitropical West Indies. He 
sent English Bibles, opium, and live cats to foreign lands, and 
glutted his warehouse with whalebone. And, most incredibly, 
on each of these transactions he made a profit. He boasted, 
afterwards, that on the whalebone alone he had earned "one 
tun and halfe of silver on hand and over . . ." 

How could anyone not go bankrupt on such merchandising 
eccentricity? It might be instructive to know the dizzying 
details as set down, quite frankly, by the master himself in 
A fickle -for the Knowing Ones. 

"How Did Dexter Make His Money ye says bying whale 
bone for staing for ships in grosing three houndred & 40 tons 
bort all in boston salum and all in Noue york under Cover 
oppenly told them for my ships they all laffed so I had at 
my oan pris I had four Counning men for Rounners thay 
found the home as I told them to act the fool ... all that 
time the Creaters more or less laffing it spread very fast here 
is the Rub in fifty days they smelt a Rat found where it 
was gone to Nouebry Port spekkelaters swarmed like hell 
houns to be short with it I made seventy five per sent . . ." 

In less Chaucerian prose, Dexter had employed cunning 
runners or agents, men who would act naive, to purchase 
340 tons of whalebone in Boston, Salem, and New York to be 
used for "stay stuff" on his ships. Those who sold the ex- 
cessive quantity of whalebone laughed at the idiocy of the 
purchase. Dexter had the last laugh. He made 75 per cent 
profit on his investment. 

Yet Dexter's version must never be accepted as definitive, 
as, to irritate his enemies and defend himself, he often related 

( 285 ) 

The Square Pegs 

only half of any story. Actually, Dexter overheard a refitter 
on one of his vessels remark one day that it was almost im- 
possible to buy enough a stay stuff." The refitter meant ship's 
rigging. But Dexter misunderstood. He thought the refitter 
was referring to corset stays, a small amount of which was 
manufactured from whalebone. At once Dexter set out to 
corner the whalebone market. He said that he was "full of 
Cash I had nine tun of silver on hand at that time . . ." This 
would have been about $60,000. The 342 tons of whalebone 
verged on folly. For by dictates of the styles than in vogue, 
corset stays were not sufficiently in demand to absorb Dex- 
ter's whalebone. But then something happened. A vessel from 
France arrived with the latest Paris fashions. These included 
broad skirts with larger corsets that required yards of whale- 
bone. And who had a monopoly on whalebone? The genius 
of Newburyport, of course. Was his adventure in merchan- 
dising fool luck? Or did he alone among businessmen under- 
stand and foresee the fluctuations of high fashion? 

Emboldened by his success in "stay stuff," Dexter embarked 
on even more spectacular risks. There were his shipments to 
the West Indies, an influx of oddity that dazed and delighted 
the merchants of Havana. "I Dreamed," he wrote, "of worm- 
ing pans three nites that thay would doue in the west inges 
I got no more than fortey two thousand put them in nine 
vessels for difrent ports that tuck good hold I cleared sevinty 
nine per sent the pans thay made yous of them for Couck- 
ing ..." 

Long before central heating and electric blankets, warming 
pans were devices employed by New Englanders to heat their 
glacial beds. These covered pans were filled with hot coals 
and placed between the bed sheets. They were, needless to 
say, designed for climes of low Fahrenheit. Dexter's purchase 
of 42,000 of them for export to the West Indies began as a 
crude joke. Some merchants' clerks goaded him into the in- 
vestment. The Captain, under charter to Dexter, must have 
been shaken by the ruinous cargo he had been hired to trans- 

( 286 ) 

The First in the East 

port to the tropics. But once again economic history adjusted 
itself to Dexter's innovations. The arrival of the warming 
pans in the Indies coincided with a production war between 
two giant molasses-makers. Each was in need of any utensil 
that might speed his output. At once, Dexter's Captain saw the 
light. Or perhaps the light he saw was only a reflection of 
Dexter's shining creativity. According to Knapp, the Captain 
contemplated his unlikely cargo, then being "a young and in- 
genious man," he "took off the covers, and had handsome 
handles put to them, and called them skimmers, and the pan 
part ladles. He then had them introduced into a large sugar- 
making establishment, and they were much approved of, as 
the best machinery of their kind invented." The warming 
pans in the disguise of ladles sold at 79 per cent profit, and 
were used in the Indies mainly for skimming the scum off 
cane syrup as it boiled in huge vats. Some of the reconverted 
pans found their way to private families, who used them to 
fry fish over open fires. It is thought that Dexter made 
$6,000 in this venture. 

Assured that the West Indies were a soft touch, Dexter 
next bombarded the native population with Bibles. "I bort 
twelve per sent under halfe pris they Cost fortey one sents 
Each bibbel twenty one thousand," he admitted. "I put them 
into twentey one vessels for the west inges and sent a text that 
all of them must have one bibel in every familey or if not 
thay would goue to hell . . ." Whether or not this deluge 
of Good Books, with the accompanying text promising hell 
and fire to reluctant customers, was bought up entirely in 
the West Indies or distributed elsewhere is not known. We 
have only Dexter's word that he profited by 100 per cent 
or the sum of $47,000 by his missionary zeal. 

If the Bibles were wholly a speculative whim, the woolen 
mittens probably were not. There was much hilarity in certain 
Newburyport quarters when Dexter shipped his mittens to 
the sweltering Indies, though veteran merchants thought it 
anything but strange. For this was a time when a four-way 

( 287 ) 

The Square Pegs 

trade existed among America, Russia, China, and India, with 
the West Indies serving as the exchange counter. Vessels 
out of St. Petersburg brought canvas hemp, iron, and linen 
to the Indies, where New Englanders accepted them in trade 
for rum, tobacco, coffee, and flour. Dexter's mittens did not 
remain long in the heat of a Caribbean warehouse. They were 
bought up by a merchantman headed for the cold Baltic re- 
gions, where they were disposed of in Russia. 

Perhaps Dexter's most profitable deal with the Indies, in 
terms of percentage rather than of gross receipts, was his 
less-publicized feline transaction. Newburyport abounded in 
stray cats. Dexter learned that sailors often took them aboard 
ship as pets or to chase rats and then disposed of them for cash 
in the Caribbean islands, where a shortage of cats existed. 
Immediately Dexter began to collect and crate them. He sent 
his squealing cargo to the Indies, where large warehouse own- 
ers purchased them some for as much as five dollars a head 
to ward off destructive vermin. 

Dexter's only recorded transaction of an unusual nature 
with the Old World resulted in his most memorable achieve- 
ment. A practical joker, it is said, gravely suggested to him 
that there was a need for coal in Newcastle, England. Dexter 
was neither widely read nor widely learned. He could not 
know that Newcastle was a leading coal center of the world, 
and he could not have heard that familiar phrase of ridicule, 
"like carrying coals to Newcastle." With childish innocence, 
Dexter acted. He ordered immense quantities of Virginia soft 
coal loaded on his ships and carried off to Newcastle. Under 
any normal circumstances, the reaction of the Newcastle citi- 
zenry at the moment of the cargo's arrival might have 
made an unforgettable picture. But Dexter's coal arrived at 
the precise moment when Newcastle was paralyzed by a 
coal strike. The mines were empty, the miners unemployed, 
and all production was at a standstill. Not only Newcastle, but 
also all the vicinity surrounding, was suffering a shortage of 

( 288 ) 

The First in the East 

fuel. Bids for Dexter's cargo were enormous. His profits added 
vastly to his "tuns" of silver. 

When he wrote his little book, a tome not noteworthy for 
its modesty, Dexter allowed himself to appear humble only 
once. "I found," he wrote, "I was very luckky in spekkela- 
tion . . ." History blindly accepted this autobiographical ver- 
dict. But again, as in the case of the Continental currency, was 
it all luck? 

William C. Todd, the great dissenter, felt that Dexter ex- 
aggerated, possibly even invented, the more incredible of his 
commercial transactions to promote the legend of luck and 
thus irritate his neighbors. Todd, contending that many of 
the Newburyport eccentric's ventures could only have been 
"lies or jokes," revealed that 342 tons of whalebone might 
have cost Dexter anywhere between $60,000 and $2,000,000, 
depending on the year the purchase occurred. Todd did not 
think that Dexter had that kind of money and said that if he 
did, the demand for corset stays would not have absorbed his 
whalebone, for very few women dressed in the height of 
Parisian fashion. 

Todd regarded the warming-pan episode as even more im- 
probable. "No hardware was made in this country until a 
little more than half a century ago [or about 1830] and all 
the warming pans in use came from Great Britain. The 
amount named would have cost $150,000, to be paid for in 
hard money. ... Is it possible, rating his intelligence very 
low, that, if he had attempted such a speculation, he would 
not have been persuaded of its folly long before he could 
have executed it?" Furthermore, Todd thought the warming 
pans ill adapted to straining molasses. "Did any visitor to the 
West Indies ever see or hear of one of those 42,000 warming 

Todd assailed the supposed Bible exportation with even 
more fervor. Obviously the Bibles had been printed in Eng- 
lish. Who would buy them in lands where only Spanish was 

( 289 ) 

The Square Pegs 

read? Besides, weren't the West Indies Roman Catholic, 
and didn't they have enough Holy Books of their own? Next, 
Dexter's shipment of mittens came under scholarly assault. 
Why would Russians need American mittens? They could 
buy their own home product more cheaply, for both wool 
and labor were cheaper in Russia than in America. As to the 
business of the cats and the coals to Newcastle, these Todd 
discreetly ignored. 

While Todd's argument against Dexter's veracity is often 
devastating, other contemporary evidence supports the mer- 
chant-jester. Knapp remembered and recorded the incident 
of the warming pans. It is unlikely that he would have done 
so if the transaction had not occurred. An anonymous clergy- 
man, writing Dexter's obituary in the Newburyport Impartial 
Herald a few days after his death, admitted: "The fortunate 
and singular manner of his speculations, by which he became 
possessed of a handsome property, are well known, and his 
selling a cargo of warming-pans to the W. Indies, where they 
were converted into molasses-ladles, and sold to a good profit, 
is but one of the most peculiar." Even Mrs. E. Vale Smith, 
who had no affection for her recent neighbor, conceded the 
occurrence of the incidents of the warming pans and the 
woolen mittens. Nor did she credit his success to luck. "We 
see no evidence of folly, but rather shrewd management, and 
cunning reticence to cover it; as it cannot possibly be sup- 
posed, that with vessels constantly arriving at Newburyport 
from the West Indies, and with cargoes from the North 
of Europe, he did not kno<w that the one was a warm country 
and the other cold. No doubt, he knew the use to which his 
warming-pans were to be applied, before they left the 
wharf. . . ." 

Though strange, unlettered, ostentatious, Dexter was not 
unintelligent. His craftiness and trickery were well known. 
He was the well-informed fool. He always learned the true 
value of an article and the possibilities of its use before specu- 
lating in it. Then he moved swiftly and audaciously, often 

( 290 ) 

The First in the East 

trying to monopolize a single product, though, toward the 
end, his competitors resisted selling to him for fear his en- 
dorsement would put the product in demand. At the peak 
of his commercial career he frequented his wine cellar more 
and more often, quaffing deeply of rum and brandy. But he 
made it a policy to terminate all his buying and selling before 
the noon hour. This was because he never drank in the morn- 
ing when he did business, and he never did business in the 
afternoon when he drank. The Dexter fortune was founded 
on sobriety and a hang-over. 

Much of his business activity was less eccentric than the 
warming pans or Bibles, but certainly as profitable as they. 
He invested heavily in real estate. He backed homesteading 
in frontier Ohio, rented his stables for construction of carding 
machines to be used in the first woolen mill in America, and 
planned (possibly even erected) factories to manufacture 
cheap clay pipes of his own design. 

One of Dexter's most conservative business acts, but one 
which was to play a great role in encouraging his future 
eccentricity, was his investment in the Essex Merrimack or 
Deer Island Bridge. Until 1793 travelers and farmers from 
the north entered Newburyport by crossing the Merrimack 
River on ferryboats. But the ferries were overcrowded. A 
company was formed to construct a toll bridge over the 
river at the point where a small island, called Deer Island, 
stood. A stock offering was made public. Sixty-three citizens 
bought stocks in the enterprise. With one hundred shares in 
his name, Dexter was the largest single stockholder. 

On the Fourth of July holiday of that year, when many 
gathered at a tavern on Deer Island to celebrate the newly 
opened bridge overhead, Dexter appeared, accompanied by 
family and exuding good cheer. Inspired, perhaps, by the 
proximity of beverages and a few well-wishers, he mounted 
a tavern table to deliver an impromptu address. "Ladies and 
gentlemen," he said, "this day, the eighteenth year of our 
glorious independence commences. Justice, order, commerce, 

( 291 ) 

The Square Pegs 

agriculture, the sciences and tranquillity reign triumphant in 
these united and happy states. America is the asylum for 
the afflicted, persecuted, tormented sons and daughters of 
Europe. Our progress towards the glorious point of perfec- 
tion is unparalleled in the annals of mankind. Permit me, then, 
my wife and jolly souls, to congratulate you on this joyful 
occasion. Let our deportment be suitable for the joyful pur- 
pose for which we are assembled. Let good nature, breeding, 
concord, benevolence, piety, understanding, wit, humor, 
punch and wine grace, bless, adorn and crown us henceforth 
and forever. Amen." 

This happy speech and the festive occasion that prompted 
it might serve to lull the unsuspecting student of Dexter's 
life. For the times were not happy times for Dexter, and the 
two years that followed were not festive. Though by enter- 
prise and daring he had gained much wealth and solidified 
his financial position, lie had made no inroads upon Newbury- 
port society. To the oldest inhabitant, he was still an irksome, 
odd intruder. For one thing, he drank too much, and when 
he drank he talked too much, and when he talked he boasted 
of his merchandising feats. For another thing, in a community 
of excessive piety, he was confusingly irreligious. 

In 1775, when still a leather-dresser, he had been converted 
by a housekeeper in his hire. This was his own admission. 
To what he had been converted he did not reveal. When he 
was advanced in years, he turned on the clergy. They were 
"gokbey handed preasts Deakens gruntters whimers" that 
is to say, jockey-handed priests, deacons, grunters, whiners. 
Furthermore, "mankind and woman kind is in posed upon all 
over the world more or less hy preast craf o for shame o for 
shame I pittey them . . ." Occasionally he relented. He gave 
Saint Paul's Church one hundred pounds for improvements 
and he gave the Second Presbyterian Society a magnificent 
bell upon which was engraved: "The gift of Timothy Dex- 
ter Esq." Sometimes he even received members of the clergy. 
Once, when a clergyman visited him and offered up a prayer, 

( 19* ) 

The First in the East 

Dexter solemnly heard it out, then turned to his son and said: 
"Sam, wasn't that a damned good prayer?" 

Periodically Dexter tried to win the affection of his fellows 
by means of donations to the community. Besides his church 
gifts, he repaired roads that were properly the responsibility 
of the government, and he willed $2,000 to Newburyport 
"for the benefit of such of the poor of the town, as are most 
necessitous." Incidentally, the interest earned by the $2,000 
was, at least until very recently, being used to aid the indi- 
gent. But even in his charity Dexter somehow managed to 
antagonize. He offered to pave all of High Street, a work 
sorely required and involving great expense, if the town 
would change the name of the thoroughfare to Dexter Street. 
The city fathers said nay. Again, Dexter offered to build a 
large brick market-house in the center of town if it would 
bear the name Dexter Hall. Once more the city fathers said 
nay, but this time with anger. 

Deeply affronted, Dexter withdrew to the bosom of his 
family. Here, too, there was lack of hospitality. At his hearth 
he found small solace and certainly no peace. His wife, Eliza- 
beth, of uneven temper and unending verbosity, was a thorn 
in his flesh. From the day of his first absurd speculation in 
depreciated currency, she had opposed his gambles. That he 
was proved right and she wrong made matters no better. 
Resenting his manner of investments, his mode of living, his 
grandiose schemes, his predilection for pretty young wenches, 
and, eventually, his affection for the improbable servants and 
friends who were to enrich his later years, she descended into 
the role of senior nag. 

From the day of their invasion of the Tracy residence, the 
Dexters were permanently embattled. Dexter stood his wife's 
insults so long, and then stood them no more. Did he leave 
her or divorce her or eliminate her by violence, as any normal 
man might have done? No, for Dexter possessed a creative 
turn of mind. On the day of decision he simply turned Eliza- 
beth Frothingham Dexter, mate, into a ghost. Henceforth, 

( 293 ) 

The Square Pegs 

for the most part, he would ignore her acutal existence as a 
person and treat her as an apparition. To strangers he would 
refer to her as "Mrs. Dexter, the ghost that was my wife." It 
must be remarked that the wrakhlike Mrs. Dexter was the 
most vocal shade in the annals of the supernatural and pos- 
sibly the most vigorous in a long line of ghosts, for she con- 
tinued to haunt her husband's residences until he passed into 
the phantom world to which he had relegated her. With un- 
blushing heartiness, she managed to outlive him by three 

Dexter's male heir, Samuel, was no less disappointing. But 
Dexter never gave up on his son, who was generously per- 
mitted to retain his corporeal existence. As a youngster pam- 
pered and spoiled, Samuel tried to buy the friendship and pro- 
tection of schoolmates with favors. Exposed to education at 
home and abroad, he remained ignorant. His head, according 
to one who observed him, was "stored with nothing that was 
useful or ornamental." In maturity he was possessed of im- 
pressive physique, but little wit. He spent money with reckless 
abandon, and after he discovered the pleasures of the bottle, 
his life became one lingering dissipation. The fault was not 
his, of course, as Knapp has sternly pointed out. "If he had 
been fortunate enough to have a sober and discreet father 
. . . feeble as he was, something might have been made of 

Dexter made one effort to introduce his son to the world 
of commerce. He charged Samuel with the transport and dis- 
posal of a shipment to Europe. Upon arrival at his port of 
call Samuel indulged in drink and games of chance and was 
forced to give up the entire shipment to pay his debts. This 
was the end of Samuel's business career. Thereafter he 
was confined to quarters in Newburyport and spent much of 
his time keeping his father company in the wine cellar. Once, 
a year or two before Dexter's death, when father, son, and 
the ghost that was Mrs. Dexter lived in a finer home in 
Newburyport, the two men emerged from an alcoholic bout 

( 294 ) 

The First in the East 

to find a tourist on the street staring up at their residence. 
Usually Dexter had no objections to voyeurism. But on this 
occasion, possibly, he had drunk too much and was in an ugly 
mood. He grabbed a musket, shoved it at Samuel, and ordered 
his son to prove himself. Samuel for once displayed good 
sense: he objected. His father darkly threatened him. Still 
Samuel refused to play sniper. In a rage Dexter took back the 
rifle, aimed it shakily, and fired. The bullet missed. The tour- 
ist, more furious than frightened, sped off to the Ipswich jail 
some twelve miles distant, and summoned the law. Dexter 
and son were brought before a magistrate. While Samuel was 
exonerated of attempted murder, Dexter was heavily fined. 
He refused to pay the fine. He was immediately clapped into 
the Ipswich jail. There he sat brooding for two months, 
martyred and stubborn, while his heir had the wine cellar to 
himself. When martyrdom wore thin, Dexter paid his fine 
and rejoined his son. 

If Samuel was Dexter's pride only in conviviality, his 
younger daughter Nancy was his fondest hope in every way. 
She was comely, docile, and mentally retarded. "She blos- 
somed for a while, a pretty but entirely vapid child with 
none of the mental adornments one anticipates in a nice young 
lady," wrote Knapp. She was the apple of Dexter's eye and 
his one domestic comfort. He dreaded the day she would 
depart his house for one of her own. For she was much 
courted. Young gentlemen came calling regularly, no doubt 
attracted by her beauty as well as by her father's widely ad- 
vertised wealth. But suitors rarely returned for a second look. 
Her good prospects apparently could not overcome her lack 
of intellect. Dexter was not dissatisfied. The disembodied 
Mrs. Dexter, however, was much annoyed. She wanted a 
good match. Nancy wanted nothing. She was Still Life in- 

Then a more persistent visitor came calling. He attended 
Nancy once, and then a second time, and then again and 
again, until he asked for her hand. His name was Abraham 

( 295 ) 

The Square Pegs 

Bishop. He was a university graduate, a Connecticut judge, a 
cosmopolite who had visited the Far East, and a Mason. Dex- 
ter has left us a picture of Abraham Bishop or A b, as he 
was wont to call him a picture that may be highly colored 
by a father's distaste. "A b is the beast or Greater two leged 
Conekett boull short Neck boull head thik hare big sholders 
black Corlley hare he wants to be A god ..." But the 
beastly, bullish, hairy, and self-assured Bishop presented a 
more attractive visage to vacant Nancy. Awed by his scholar- 
ship and glib tongue, prodded by her mother, she was eager to 
marry him. Only her father objected. Dexter suspected that 
Bishop was less interested in his "babey" than in his "tuns" of 
silver. "He being A fox and A old fox, he was after the 

In the end the ladies won. But the marriage was a disaster, 
"I have bin in hell all the time more so sence Abraham 
bishup got in to my house . . ." the wretched Dexter wrote. 
Bishop took his bride to New Haven to live. His income was 
such that he required his father-in-law's help. After two 
years Dexter complained that Bishop, as well as son Samuel 
and "my wife that was" had cost him $10,000. Bishop, im- 
patient with his wife's feeble mentality, cuffed her about con- 
tinually. Once, while brutally beating her, he so injured her 
side that she was compelled to wear plasters on her body 
for three years. In despair, she began to drink, and finally 
lost her reason. She bore Bishop a child. When she had given 
way fully to alcoholism and insanity Bishop demanded a 
divorce. He obtained it, but not until he had cost his angry 
father-in-law "one tun of silver." Pitiful Nancy, bruised, ad- 
dicted to "likker," and "Crasey," returned with her offspring 
to Newburyport and became the charge of her distressed 
parent for the rest of his life. 

It is not inconceivable that Timothy Dexter, so beset, might 
have gone "Crasey," too, had he not at this moment in his 
life found an outlet for his troubled brain. He was almost 
fifty when he took up his pen in earnest and became an author. 

( 296 ) 

The First in the East 

Of course, motives other than mere escape brought him into 
literature. He still sought the respect of Newburyport society 
and thought to dazzle its members by his creative outpourings. 
More important, he had cast his eye, at last, on immortality. 
"Nearly every act of his apparent folly may be traced to one 
overpowering passion, uncontrolled by any natural or culti- 
vated taste, though combined with considerable shrewdness: 
this passion was vanity," Mrs. E. Vale Smith has stated. 

In earlier years, Dexter had enlightened Newburyport with 
an occasional letter to the editor. But by now he had lived 
much and suffered deeply, and he had wisdom in excess 
to impart. It is unfortunate that his style, original and un- 
inhibited from the first, was marred in the beginning by the 
vandals who edited the Newburyport Impartial Herald and 
other journals. Actually the Impartial Herald was published 
for a time by a friend and admirer, Edmund Blunt, who had 
raised its circulation from 70 to 700 in two years. Perhaps 
veneration for his forty-dollar printing press, which had once 
served Benjamin Franklin, convinced Blunt that he must punc- 
tuate and rewrite Dexter's earliest ungrammatical effusions. 
Perhaps, too, Blunt did not wish to make an old friend ap- 
pear the object of ridicule in the community though later, 
in Salem, Blunt would agree to print Dexter's "unimitated 
and inimitable" master work, A Pickle for the Knowing Ones, 
without tampering with the text. 

There was some reticence in Dexter's first offering to the 
Impartial Herald. "Mr. Printers, I hope my weak brothers 
won't be disturbed about my scratching a little in the news- 
paper. I do it to learn myself to write and spell which I never 
knew how; I am now at leisure and a man of pleasure. I mean 
no hurt I let you know what I know without reading 
what I know only by experience Clear Nature has been my 
schoolmaster." At various times Dexter discoursed on broth- 
erly love, the human soul, a seven-foot African lion he was 
displaying in his back yard, the perfidy of Abraham Bishop, 
the wisdom of appointing Dexter the Emperor of the United 

( 29? ) 

The Square Pegs 

States, female fashions, and the folly of entrusting public of- 
fices to men without means. 

Then suddenly, without warning, like a bolt from the 
blue, was published in the Impartial Herald what appeared 
to be Timothy Dexter's valedictory to Newburyport: 

"It costs eight hundred dollars a year to support a watch 
in this town, and yet gentlemen's windows are broken, fences 
pulled down and Cellars broken open, and much other mis- 
demeanors done at night. Are the watch asleep, or are they 
afraid to detect those who are guilty of such practices? Boast 
not of it, if you call this Liberty and Equality. . . . 

"Now fellow citizens is it wisdom, is it policy, to use a 
man or men so shocking bad as to oblige them to leave the 
town where they paid one Dollar a day to support govern- 

"A friend to good order, honor to whom it belongs, to 
great men a friend to all good citizens and honest men good 

Timothy Dexter was leaving Newburyport at last. He had 
been provoked to move, he said, by unrestrained youths, 
thieves, and ruffians who were disturbing his peace and de- 
stroying his property. Fie did not announce, though it was 
plainly evident, that he was tired of being ostracized by 
polite society and hurt by the rejection of his offer to pave 
the town's main street. He had decided to go to a community 
where his originality and liberality might be appreciated and 
where his worldly goods would be protected. He purchased 
a vast country-estate in Chester, New Hampshire. He then 
disposed of the Tracy house at a profit. Early in 1796 he 
departed Newburyport for Chester. Early in 1797 he returned 
to stay. The year of absence had not been without its ad- 
vantages. For the Dexter who returned was a nobler Dexter, 
far better equipped to fend off the disapproval of his New- 
buryport neighbors. 

What happened in Chester to alter Dexter's outlook? Some- 
how, in his new location, the leather-dresser and man of com- 

( 298 ) 

The First in the East 

merce acquired nobility. One day he was the plebeian Dex- 
ter, the republican Dexter, the everyman's Dexter and the 
next he was Lord Timothy Dexter of Chester. The origin 
of his title remains a mystery. Had he knighted himself? Or 
had he been knighted by the circle of sycophants who courted 
a man of wealth? The facts are not known. All that is known 
is that soon, in the public prints, Dexter was referring to him- 
self as "the first Lord in Americake the first Lord Dexter 
made by the voice of hamsher state my brave fellows Affirmed 
it they gave me the titel & so let it goue for as much as it 
will fetch it wonte give me Any breade but take from 
me . . ." Evidently Lord Dexter was realistic about his peer- 
age. It would give him no bread. On the contrary, the high 
station would be costly. But he would not shirk the respon- 
sibility. After all, the "voise of the peopel and I cant Help 
it" had elevated him. 

Yet even his rapid ascent to the peerage could not make 
him unaware of his antipathy toward Chester. A Baptist 
preacher in the new community directed a sermon and the 
threat of fire and brimstone at Dexter. Angered, Dexter 
walked out of the church. The tax collectors of New Hamp- 
shire, more persistent than those of Massachusetts, exacted 
one dollar a week from him for road improvements and 
twenty-four dollars for use of his carriages, and tried mightily 
to get their share of his "two Hundred wate of Silver." The 
specter that was Mrs. Dexter was more visible and more 
verbal than ever. Her activity may be attributed to the knowl- 
edge that Dexter was having visitations from more earthly 
females. It is with difficulty that one pictures Dexter as Casa- 
nova. But there is evidence that during his New Hamp- 
shire year he reserved much of his wit, and some of his wealth, 
for unattached females. At Hampton Beach he once became 
romantically involved with an attached female, much to his 
regret. Her boy friend belabored Dexter with more than 
words. Finally, there was the unhappy altercation Dexter 
had with a member of the bar. According to Dexter, a lawyer- 

( 299 ) 

The Square Pegs 

Dexter on any hurried journey, lay a supply of fireworks, a 
speaking trumpet, pipes and tobacco, and "a bibel to read and 
sum good songs." 

The most curious and best-remembered addition to his 
landscape was yet to come. In 1801 Dexter conceived and 
announced his outdoor museum. It was to be dedicated to the 
late George Washington and to his equals from the earliest 
dawn of history. It was to take the form of a series of statues 
of great personalities and symbolic figures, all carved of 
marble and life-sized. These representations would be distrib- 
uted at the mansion's entrance, on the front lawns, in the 
rear gardens, so that all who wished might see them plainly 
and appreciate being a part of the human family. "I will shoue 
the world one of the Grate Wonders of the world, in 15 
months," Dexter announced in the press, "if No man murders 
me in Dors or out of Dors." No man murdered Dexter, and 
he proceeded with his plans. There would be, he said, "The 
3 presidents, Doctor Franklin, John hen Cock, and Mr Hamil- 
ton and RoufFous King and John Jea, and 2 granedears on 
the top of the hous, 4 Lions below, i Eagel, is on the 
Coupulow, one Lamb to lay down with one of the Lions, 
One Yonnecorne, one Dogg, Addam and Eave in the garden, 
one horse. The houll is not concluded on as yet Dexter's 

To execute the grand design Dexter hired an admirable 
artist and new friend, Joseph Wilson, who had carved figure- 
heads and other decorations on sailing ships before arriving 
in Newburyport Dexter had previously tested Wilson with 
the development of the gold eagle that turned on the cupola. 
The result had satisfied him, and he regarded Wilson "A fine 
fellow." However, Dexter did not let sentiment cloud his 
business sense. Knapp has it that Wilson received $15,000 for 
the task, but later research proves that the sum was $4,000. 
An architect, Ebenezer Clifford, was retained to assist the 

As the project neared preparation there was only one major 

( 302 ) 

The First in the East 

change in its conception. Dexter had wanted marble, but 
Wilson insisted upon wood. Wilson argued that wood was 
more permanent. It was probably also much cheaper. In the 
end Dexter told his artist to go ahead with wood. 

The outdoor museum was completed in little more than 
a year. There were forty wooden images in all, and their 
diversity indicated that their patron was a man of catholic 
tastes. Scattered throughout the property, mostly on pedestals 
and pillars, stood, among others, Louis XVI, Venus, an anony- 
mous preacher, Governor Gilman of New Hampshire, two 
grenadiers, Motherly Love, four lions and a lamb, John 
Hancock, Moses, one dog, Adam and Eve, George III, 
Horatio Nelson, Governor Strong of Massachusetts, Aaron 
Burr, an Indian chief, Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor of 
China, William Pitt, Toussaint L'Ouverture, and Benjamin 

The four lions, symbols of international peace, guarded 
Dexter's door. Above them rose an arch, supported by two 
columns, on which stood George Washington "father gorge 
with his hat on" flanked by John Adams, carrying a cane 
and facing the father of his country "as if thay was on sum 
politicks," and President Thomas Jefferson, the "grat f elosfer" 
grasping a scroll labeled "Constitution." For the position at 
the head of his walk, near the fence and facing the street, 
Dexter reserved Wilson's finest work of art. It was a life- 
sized statue of Timothy Dexter himself, mounted high on a 
pedestal and bearing the engraved inscription: "I am the first 
in the East, the first in the West, and the greatest philosopher 
in the Western World." 

After the forty figures had been garishly painted, the 
Dexter mansion appeared less a residence than a rainbow. 
From the day the museum was completed, High Street was 
crowded with visitors from all New England, and eventually 
from all the East. The popular theory has it that Dexter 
erected this carnival with profit in mind. To reach his resi- 
dence many tourists had to pay toll to cross the Essex Merri- 

( 303 ) 

The Square Pegs 

mack Bridge, In which Dexter was the largest shareholder, 
so they were contributing to his wealth. While Dexter was 
thus enriched, of course, money could not have been his pri- 
mary motive. He was a sad and lonely man who wanted 
company and approval. The museum brought him company 
in excess. Whether it brought him approval is debatable. 

Though spectacular, the forty wooden figures that graced 
Dexter's landscape were not the most interesting personalities 
to inhabit his royal domain. Inside the great house there was 
a more animate and more colorful menage. Even the ghost 
that was Mrs. Dexter, and the drunken Samuel and the 
drunken Nancy, were pallid when compared with the retain- 
ers Dexter had gathered under one roof. 

If King Arthur had his Merlin, Lord Dexter had his Madam 
Hooper. This crone, with a double set of teeth and a chicken 
for a companion, had sailed to America as the mistress of a 
British officer. With him she had gone through the privations 
of the Indian wars, and from him she had learned to fire a 
musket and brandish a broadsword. Finally abandoned, she 
had made her way to Newburyport. She had been fairly well 
educated, and so took up the profession of teaching. But few 
in Newburyport wanted to be taught. In desperation, she 
turned to fortunetelling. This was better, but ignominious, 
as many in the community thought her a witch. One day, 
by propitious chance, Dexter requested that she locate the 
thieves who were depleting his melon patch. It was the su- 
preme test. Madam Hooper was ready for it. Muttering 
among her dream books and crude horoscopes and perhaps 
putting her ear to the ground in a district from which many 
vandals had been graduated she came up with the name of 
the culprit, thus endearing herself to Dexter for life. 
Promptly, accompanied by her chicken and her sorcery, she 
went to live in the great mansion as adviser to the master. 

When Madam Hooper died she was succeeded by Mary 
McCauley, a leathery, husky, brusque woman who had done 
laundry for her keep until she became a prominent fortune- 

( 34 ) 

The First in the East 

teller in the vicinity of Lynn. Mrs. McCauIey's place in Amer- 
ican history, as it turned out, would exceed even her em- 
ployer's. At sixteen Mary, or Molly, as she was known, mar- 
ried a young barber named John Hays. When he was called 
to serve the revolutionary cause she followed. At Monmouth, 
when Lee retreated before the redcoats and Mad Anthony 
Wayne fought back with fury, Molly left the safety of the 
other wives to invade the battlefield and relieve the American 
wounded with pitchers of water. Thereafter she was always 
Molly Pitcher. At Monmouth, too, when her husband was 
hit and gunners were scarce, she manned a cannon. After the 
war and Hays's death, she married one George McCauley, 
who would not support her. She left him to support herself. 
Her fame as a seer was growing when Dexter made his off er. 
She moved into his dwelling, where, puffing a pipe and cussing 
like the veteran she was, she cheered him with her readings of 

Another in the household was William Burley, whom 
Dexter called The Dwarf. He was a thimble-brained jester, 
towering six feet seven inches in height. For a house- 
keeper Dexter employed a vast and aggressive Negro, Lucy 
Lancaster, daughter of an African prince. She became Dexter's 
mainstay. She humored him, protected him, and understood 
him. During long periods she curbed his drinking and eccen- 
tricities. To visitors she was his apologist, insisting always 
that he was honest and good and that his follies were inspired 
by unemployment and a nervous temperament. 

But the most improbable of those who served Lord Dexter 
was Jonathan Plummer, a local fishmonger turned book ped- 
dler. Plummer, a stocky, bowlegged, eloquent creature, had 
tried to make his way as a preacher, pawnbroker, and eligible 
bachelor (he courted, successively, nine "vigorous and anti- 
quated virgins"), before concentrating on the retailing of 
halibut. Eventually he found that banned books and pamphlets 
dealing with pornography, murder, scandal, miracles, and 
atheism were in more demand than fish as food for the brain. 

( 305 ) 

The Square Pegs 

Hiding these lurid works under fish and straw in a wheel- 
barrow, he made his way about Newburyport. Gradually, 
as he had difficulty supplying the demand for lively reading, 
he began to produce writings of his own. Though murderers 
and sex monsters were occasionally his subjects, he soon saw 
in Timothy Dexter a better subject. 

He penned a pamphlet in prose praising Dexter's commer- 
cial abilities. This was not enough. In the winged words of 
poetry, perhaps, he could express his innermost feelings and 
touch the sensibilities of one so rich and remote. When Dexter 
returned from New Hampshire, Jonathan Plummer had "a 
congratulatory ode" waiting for him. Of the eleven stirring 
stanzas, the first two will suffice: 

Your Lordship's welcome back again 
Fair nymphs with sighs have mourn' d your 

So long from them and me your swain, 
And wonder' d at such long delaying; 

But now you bless- again our eyes, 

Our melting sorrow droops and dies. 

The town of Chester to a Lord 
Must seem a desert dull and foggy, 

A gloomy place upon my word 
I think it dirty, wet and boggy: 

Far different -from your Kingly seat, 

In good saint James his famous street. 

Understandably, Dexter could not resist. With the lure of 
a small regular salary, use of his premises and table, and a 
new red suit, Dexter acquired Plummer as his full-time poet 
laureate. Plummer enjoyed his new post and was inspired to 
excessive productivity. Only one thing rankled. The red suit 
had not been delivered. Plummer blamed this lapse on the 
fact that Dexter was suffering from the gout. "The painful 

( 306 ) 

The First in the East 

disease, in a great measure, destroyed his Lordship's relish 
for poetry," Plummer noted. Eventually the gout was over- 
come, and Plummer had his suit. It was not red as he wished, 
but something far more imaginative, as his patron wished. 
The cocked hat, cloak, frock suit, and buckled shoes were 
black, but sprinkled with silver stars that sparkled and danced. 
In this silk-lined uniform, with a parsley on his hat and a 
gold-headed cane in his hand, Plummer went out to hawk his 
most grateful and airy poesy. This time the rhyme was fifteen 
stanzas, but a generous sampling will convey its tone: 

Lord Dexter is a man of -fame; 

Most celebrated is his name; 

More precious -far than gold that's pure, 

Lord Dexter shine forever more. 

His noble house, it shines more bright 
Than Lebanon's most pleasing height; 
Never was one <who stepped therein 
Who wanted to come out again. 

Lord Dexter ', thou, 'whose name alone 
Shines brighter than king George's throne; 
Thy name shall stand in books of fame, 
And princes shall thy name proclaim. 

His mighty deeds they are so great, 
He's honored both in church and state. 
And 'when he comes all must give way, 
To let Lord Dexter bear the sivay. 

When Dexter dies all things shall droop, 
Lord East, Lord West, Lord North shall stoop, 
And then Lord South iirith pomp shall come, 
And bear his body to the tomb. 

( 307 ) 

The Square Pegs 

In heaven may he always reign, 
For there's no sorrow, sin, nor pain; 
Unto the world I leave the rest 
For to pronounced Lord Dexter blest. 

What made Dexter take up his pen again on his own behalf 
was not his lack of faith in the immortality of Plummer's 
verse, but simply that he was bored. In a few weeks, un- 
hampered by stops, he scratched out the twenty-four pages of 
A Pickle for the Knowing Ones. When he wanted a printer, 
there was only one he could trust. Edmund Blunt had been 
the editor of the Newburyport Impartial Herald when Dexter 
had been a contributor, and now Blunt owned a prosperous 
printing-shop in Salem. Blunt still visited his favorite author. 
As late as 1853 he remembered, in a letter to Mrs. Smith, his 
friend Dexter, "with whom, in his own summer-house, on his 
coffin, decorated with decanters, &c., I have taken many a 
glass of wine, with a company of cavalry to which I then 
belonged." Undoubtedly, they discussed the book. In the 
spring of 1802 Blunt brought it forth. 

Despite a naked press, Dexter maintained sturdy confidence 
in his brain child to the very end. It was, he told an editor, 
"A Littel mousement to mankind at Large . . . I I me 
T Dexter of N Port Desires Any man or men on the 
gloube to Exseede me as to what I have Rote in rny Littel 
book . . ." 

None was tempted by his challenge. In literature, in origi- 
nality, no man exceeded him. 

With the book, his museum, and his retainers he reached 
his peak. There was little time left. He would have to stand 
by what he had accomplished. He was fifty-five years of age. 
The only surviving portrait of him, "engraved from the life" 
by James Akin, of Newburyport, was done in this period. It 
was said to be a startling likeness. In it Dexter is seen strolling 
with a small, hairless black dog, something that might be a 
cross between dachshund and chihuahua. His Lordship wears 
a broad, tasseled cocked hat, a white tie and shirt, a wrinkled 

( 308 ) 

The First in the East 

waistcoat, a long, blue topcoat, breeches secured just above 
the ankles with ribbons, and comfortable-looking black shoes. 
He is carrying a gold-headed cane. His graying hair hangs 
below his ears, and his brows are bushy. His eyes seem large, 
alert, mischievous. The nose is long and thin, as is the upper 
lip, which is cast downward in the manner of the cynic. The 
jaw is determined. The arms are long, and the hands seern the 
hands of an artist rather than those of a laborer. The feet are 

His work was done and the days were long. Daily, followed 
by his porcine dog, he took his constitutional within the 
boundaries of his estate. Often he paused to banter with his 
workmen. Sometimes he halted to contemplate the oddities 
of his museum, and when the spirit moved him, he eradicated 
the name of some celebrity and replaced it with another. 
Occasionally he invited visitors to share the fruits of his garden 
and enjoy his wooden images. When the visitors were pretty 
damsels they were soon damsels in distress, for Dexter was 
frequently inflamed and attempted "improper liberties with 
his female visitors." In recounting these instances, Knapp 
added: "When disappointed of his prey, he would rave about 
his house and curse his family for joining in league against 
him. How wretched is the life of a dotard, in the pursuit of 
what he calls pleasure!" 

More often, as he suffered the gout and other assorted ills, 
he spent his days indoors. He addressed the local press and 
the papers in Boston with offers to sell his mansion and mu- 
seum, which he estimated to be worth $25,000, at a bargain 
price. In 1806 the Probate Court determined the value at 
$12,000. He supervised and added to his collection of watches, 
clocks, and their works. The timepieces ticked and clattered 
in every roon of the great house. Dexter regarded his clocks 
as living shadows, railed against them when they ran down, 
and often wished mankind could be wound up like them. 
Many visitors desired to see his house and converse with its 
illustrious owner. Dexter preferred the company of old friends 
who drank with him, though he was not averse to receiving 

( 309 ) 

The Square Pegs 

youths who addressed him as Lord or to entertaining foreign 
newcomers who professed to be noblemen. In one case, a 
peace advocate of Portsmouth named Ladd, eager to see 
Dexter in his natural habitat, pretended that he was a peer 
recently arrived from England. Dexter was most gracious. 
He was concerned about only one thing. What had the King 
of England been saying about him recently? 

It was very late. Perhaps he had a premonition, or perhaps 
it was only the all-too-human desire to know what others 
would say about him after he was gone, that inspired his last 
eccentric gesture. He announced a "mock founnel." As it 
turned out, the mock funeral was staged with full cast and 
accessories. It lacked only the leading man. Dexter sent invita- 
tions to friends and acquaintances throughout the state. He 
tried to obtain the services of a minister. Failing in that, he 
hired a Dr. Strong to officiate and deliver a eulogy. Learning 
that a Lord North was in the vicinity, Dexter invited him to 
serve as a pallbearer, then christened his other "grand pall- 
holders" Lord South, Lord East, and Lord West. 

Half of Newburyport, three thousand persons by Dexter's 
estimate, lined the thoroughfares to watch the funeral pro- 
cession. At the sight of the vacant coffin, Dexter was 
moved to report, "there was much Cring." Would it be dis- 
respectful to suggest that there was much crying because 
the coffin was vacant? As the procession marched to his tomb, 
there to deposit the empty casket, Dexter watched from an 
upstairs window. The solemnities over, the mourners poured 
into the residence to partake of a grand feast and wine. The 
resurrected host did not appear at once. Loud screams and 
wails from a far quarter of the house revealed Lady Dexter in 
agony. Her Lord stood over her, severely caning her for 
having failed to shed a tear at the funeral. 

In the autumn of 1806, in his fifty-ninth year, Timothy 
Dexter became very ill. For forty-eight hours he was semi- 
conscious and incoherent, and on October 26, 1806, he was 

His will, written seven years before, was generous and 

( 310) 

The First in the East 

sensible. His estate amounted to $35,027, still considerable 
after the inroads made upon it by Samuel Dexter, Abraham 
Bishop, and the museum. Out of this sum he provided for his 
family and relatives. To a friend who was a teacher he left 
two shares of Essex Merrimack Bridge stock, as well as silver 
spoons and gold buttons. To Maiden, whence he had come, 
and to Newburyport, where he had risen to greatness, he left 
liberal donations for the impoverished. His last request was 
that he be buried in the beloved tomb in his garden. 

All of his requests were granted save the last. The New- 
buryport board of health determined that such a burial might 
be unsanitary. He was laid to rest in the attractive Old Hill 
Burying Ground. A plain stone was placed at his grave. Upon 
it was chiseled a reticent inscription: 

In memory of Timothy Dexter *who died Oct. 26, i8o6 y 

Mtatis 60. 

He gave liberal Donations 
For the support of the Gospel; 
For the benefit of the Poor, 
And for other benevolent purposes. 

Was this recital all that was to be remembered? Surely 
his closest ones would perpetuate his name. But two of them 
did not survive him long, and the third was hopelessly out 
of touch with reality. Samuel Dexter died on July 20, 1807, 
Elizabeth Dexter on July 3, 1809. Nancy Dexter lived on in 
the great house alone even after it had been rented out as a 
hotel and tavern, until her merciful passing in 1851. Her 
daughter by Bishop, Dexter's only grandchild, grew to matu- 
rity, married well, but died in her youth. She was the last of 
the Dexter line. 

What else was left? The graven images? Their lives were 
all too brief. In the terrible tempest of 1815 that swept across 
Newburyport, most of the forty wooden statues were toppled 
to the ground, many of them disfigured by the storm. With 
what consent Nancy could give, they were placed on public 
auction. A number of them brought, sad to relate, only a 

The Square Pegs 

dollars," and the others were consigned to a bonfire, 
among them the majestic representation of Lord Dexter him- 
self, which had not brought a single offer. 

All that remained, and these only until 1 850, were Adams, 
Washington, and Jefferson, weatherbeaten under the royal 
arch. With Nancy's death, the mansion was sold to Dr. E. G. 
Kelley, a man of conservative if inartistic tastes, who removed 
the three presidents and fed them to "the flames." He, in 
turn, sold the residence to George H. Corliss, who restored 
it to the respectability it had known under Jonathan Jackson 
in pre-Dexterian days. Later, the residence was converted 
into a public library. Its varied proprietors had sentiment 
enough to leave untouched one last symbol of Dexter's glory. 
In a federal guidebook to Massachusetts, published in 1937, 
there is brief mention of the Jackson-Dexter house at 201 
High Street. It gives passing notice to Dexter's greatness: 
"The ornate wood-encased chimneys, the watch-tower sur- 
mounted by a gilded eagle, the columns flanking the door, 
give an aspect of eccentric charm to this old dwelling. . . ." 
It was the golden eagle alone, the brave bird that had once 
soared as high as Dexter, that survived the depredations of the 

Of Dexter's personal friends only one remained true to his 
memory. Jonathan Plummer, in his star-spangled livery, fol- 
lowed his patron's death with a broadside entitled Something 
Neiv. In it he concluded that Dexter's kindness and charity 
outweighed his faults and that in another world he would 
rest beside "the glorious company of Abraham, Isaac and 
Jacob." Soon even Plummer had to forsake Dexter. For 
within a year he was peddling a work, of which he was the 
author, entitled Parson Pidgin: or, Holy Kissing . . . Oc- 
casioned by a Report that Parson Pidgin Had Kissed a Young 
Woman. Thirteen years later, suffering a loss of his mental 
powers, the poet laureate went on a hunger strike and expired. 

All the magnificence of Lord Timothy Dexter was gone 
except the "Littel book." Perhaps it was enough. 


Principal Sources 

A MOST all of the American eccentrics in this book were prolific 
writers. And, with the exception of Norton, who limited his 
literary contributions to the daily press, and Symmes, whose 
articles were not compiled until after his death, all of them wrote 
books. The total product of their uninhibited, fanciful, and highly 
original pens would certainly make one of the most bizarre librar- 
ies in existence. For here, on a single shelf, might be. found a 
slender volume in defense of suicide, another entirely devoid of 
punctuation, another castigating anti-Masons, and yet another 
proclaiming Shakespeare an imposter and an idiot. 

Yet, without this library of oddity, it would have been difficult 
for me to have undertaken the research and writing of this book. 
For my best source of information on American eccentrics re- 
mained the creative works of the eccentrics themselves. These 
works are too many to list in detail, but I should like at least to 
mention the handful that was most illuminating in helping me 
portray their authors: The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakspere 
Unfolded, by Delia Bacon, London, 1857; Euthanasia, by James A. 
Harden-Hickey, New York, 1894; Our Writers, by James A. 
Harden-Hickey, Paris, 1887; The Symmes Theory of Concentric 
Spheres, by John Cleves Symmes, Louisville, 1878; An American 
Merchant in Europe, Asia and Australia, by George Francis Train, 
New York, 1857; My Life in Many States and in Foreign Lands, 
by George Francis Train, New York, 1902. 

Besides reading the writings of the eccentrics, I spent delightful 
and amazed hours and days, over a period of twelve years, in the 
libraries of Los Angeles, New York, London, and Paris, reading 
letters, diaries, and various published material written by those 
who had known the eccentrics in person or had previously studied 

( 313 ) 

The Square Pegs 

Contemporary newspapers served me well. Though the news 
and feature stories were often biased and inaccurate, and much 
care had to be taken in evaluating them, the wealth of firsthand, 
living, breathing detail in each account gave reality to characters 
who sometimes seemed almost fictional. The newspapers I con- 
sulted ranged from Le Tnboulet in Paris (files from 1 878 to 1 883) 
to the Tribune in New York (files from 1893 to 1898). 

Articles in popular and scholarly periodicals were equally help- 
ful. Of the great number that I examined, I found the following 
particularly useful: an article by W. E. Woodward, The Ameri- 
can Mercury, New York, September 1927; an anonymous book 
review, American Quarterly Review, Philadelphia, March and 
June 1827; an article by P. Clark, The Atlantic Monthly, Boston, 
April 1873; an article by Robert Ernest Cowan, California Histor- 
ical Society Quarterly, October 1923; articles by Wilbur Glenn 
Voliva, Leaves of Healing, Zion City, May 1930; an article by 
John Weld Peck, Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, 
Volume 1 8, 1909; an article by David Warren Ryder, Plain Talk 
Magazine, Washington, D.C., January 1928; articles by William 
Cleaves Todd, N&w England Historical and Genealogical Regis- 
ter, Boston, Volumes XL and XLI, 1886, and Volume XLIV, 
1890; an article by Harold Frederic, The Saturday Review, Au- 
gust 3, 1895. 

While the literature of American eccentricity is extremely lim- 
ited, I did manage to find several hundred books that discussed 
a few fully, but most in passing the unusual personalities who 
interested me. Of these books, a small number proved especially 
valuable. To their authors and publishers, my grateful thanks: 
Delia Bacon, by Theodore Bacon, Boston, 1888; Pilgrims Through 
Space and Time, by J. O. Bailey, New York, 1947; Real Soldiers 
of Fortune, by Richard Harding Davis, New York, 1912; The 
Great Cryptogram, by Ignatius Donnelly, Chicago, 1888; Recol- 
lections of Seventy Years, by Mrs. John Farrar, Boston, 1866; 
Jewish Pioneers and Patriots, by Lee M. Friedman, New York, 
1943; Our Old Home, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, New York, 1907; 
Uncommon Scold, by George Stuyvesant Jackson, Boston, 1937; 
Emperor Norton, by Allen Stanley Lane, Caldwell, Idaho, 1939; 
Lord Timothy Dexter, by J. P. Marquand, New York, 1925; 
Books in Red and Black, by Edmund Lester Pearson, New York, 

( 314) 

A Note on Principal Sources 

1923; The Life and Times of Anne Roy all, by Sarah Harvey- 
Porter, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1909; The Terrible Siren, by Emanie 
Sachs, New York, 1928; Uncommon Americans , by Don C. Seitz, 
Indianapolis, 1925; The English Eccentrics, by Edith Sitwell, 
Stockholm, 1947; History of Newburyport, by Mrs. E. Vale 
Smith, Boston, 1 854; The Nine Lives of Citizen Tram, by Willis 
Thornton, New York, 1948; Mr. Shakespeare of the Globe, by 
Frayne Williams, New York, 1941. 

( 315 ) 


Academy of Natural Sciences 
(Philadelphia), 241 

Academy of Sciences (San Fran- 
cisco), 1 66 

"An Account of Mrs. Woodhull," 

Adams, John, 244, 254, 303, 312 

Adams, John Quincy, 238, 243-6, 
253, 282 

Adams, Mrs. John Quincy, 245 

Advancement of Learning, The, 187 

Akin, James, engraver, 308 

Alabama controversy, 98 

Aldington, Richard, quoted, 14 

Algoa Bay (South Africa), 150 

Aha California, newspaper, 158, 165 

Alwato (forerunner of Esperanto), 

American Association of Spiritual- 
ists, 135 

American Authors, 213 

American Quarterly Review, 236-7 

Ames, Oakes, Massachusetts con- 
gressman, 84-5 

Andrews, Stephen Pearl, Negro* 
scholar, 112-13, 120, 132, 143 

Anglo-American Association, 146 

Arma'wan (brig), 238-91 

Anne, Queen, 246 

Anthony, Susan B., 96, 116, 118, 
132; quoted, 131 

Apollo HaU (New York City), 119, 

"Apostle of Protest, 1 ' see Donnelly, 

Around the World m Eighty Days, 


Ashe, Elizabeth, 14 
Aspley, William, editor, 168 
Atlantic and Great Western Rail- 

roa'd, 76 

Atlantic Monthly, 235 
Atlantis (continent), 25 
Aubrey, John, 185 
Ayesha, 15 

Bacon, Alice Parks, mother of 

Delia Bacon, 176-7 
Bacon, David, father of Delia 

Bacon, 176-7 

Bacon, Delia Salter (168-222): 23; 
disputes authorship of Shake- 
speare plays, 173; to England, 175; 
birth and early life, 176-7; teach- 
ing career, 178; early writings, 
179-80; meets McWhorter, 182; 
McWhorter trial, 184; proposes 
Groupist theory, 187-8; meets 
Carlyle, 189; to St. Albans, 190; 
her article published in Putnam's 
Monthly, 192; helped by Haw- 
thorne, 197; to Stratford, 203; 
her book published, 208; com- 
mitted to asylum, 221; death, 221; 
quoted, 168, 171, 188-93, 196-7, 
204, 206, 209-11, 220 

Bacon, Sir Francis, 171-2, 174-5, 
187, 189-90, 194, 198, 200, 207-8, 
210, 212-13, 216-18, 220 

Bacon, George, nephew of Delia 
Bacon, 221 

Bacon, Leonard, brother of Delia 
Bacon, 178, 182-4, 201; quoted, 
202, 220-1 

Bacon, Theodore, nephew of Delia 
Bacon, 178, 181; quoted > 180-2, 

Bacon and Shakespeare: An En- 
quiry Touching Players, Play- 
houses and Play-Writers in the 
Days of Elizabeth, 213 

Barbier, policeman, 165 

Barnum, Phineas T., 89, 263-5 

Barracouta (warship), 51 

Bath (England), 16 

Baudelaire, Charles, 12, 31 

Beaconsfield, Lord, see Disraeli 

Beckford, William, orientologist, 
15-17, 20 

Beecher, Catharine, sister of Harriet 
Beecher Stowe, 135, 177-8, 184 


The Square Pegs 

Beecher, Eunice Dullard, wife of 

Henry Ward Beecher, 125 
Beecher, Henry Ward, 94, 123-9, 

136-9, 144 

Bellanger, Marguerite, 29 
Bellingshausen, Fabian, explorer, 237 
Bemis, George P., secretary of 

George Francis Train, 91 
Bennett, James Gordon, 74 
Bennoch, editor, 204-6 
Bentley, Richard, publisher, 16 
Bernhardt, Sarah, 29 
Bible Myths, 42 
Bible Plagiarisms, 38, 41 
Biddle, Nicholas, banker, 245 
Bishop, Abraham, husband of Nancy 

Dexter, 295-7, 311 
Bishop, Nancy Dexter, see Dexter, 


Bismarck, 162 
Black, James, Prohibition Party 

candidate, 87-8 
Black Book, or a Continuation of 

Travels in the United States, The, 

244-5, 257 

Black Friday (1869), 105-6 
Blake, Grinfill, 118-19 
Blake, Katherine D., quoted, 118-19 
Blake, Lillie Devereux, 118-19, J 34 
Blatvatsky, Madame Helena P., 

spiritualist, 36-8 
Blood, Colonel Jarnes Harvey, 

spiritualist and promoter, 103, 

110-13, I2C-I, 129, 133-4, *3<5, 

139-40, 143 

Blount, Edward, editor, 168 
Blumenthal, Walter Hart, 268 
Blunt, Edmund, publisher, 297, 308 
Bly, Nellie, reporter, 64, 92-3 
Bonaparte, Joseph, 254 
Bonaparte, Louis-Napoleon (Na- 
poleon III), 30, 33, 45, 61, 69, 74, 

161, 165 
Bonaparte, Napoleon (Napoleon I), 

30, 155, 272, 303 
Boni, Albert, publisher, 217 
Boston Commercial, 254 
Boston Daily News, 32 
Boston Journal, 136 
Bo wen, Henry, publisher, 127 
Bradley and Gilbert, publishers, 240 
Bradshaw, Martha, deaconess, 127 

Brazil, 26-7, 51-2, 57, 148, 150-1 
Bredon's Norton College, 146 
Bridgewater, 227 
Bride of Fort Edward: A Dramatic 

Story, The, 180 
British Museum, 144, 174, 190 
Brooklyn Eagle, 145 
Brooks, Alden, 218 
Brooks, Van Wyck; 213 
Brown, John, 162, 214 
Brown, Solyman, 269 
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, 201 
Brummell, Beau, 13-14 
Bryant, William Cullen, 109 
Bryce, James, historian, 20 
Buchanan, James, 195 
Buckhurst, Lord, 187, 210, 216 
Bull Run, battle of, 79, 80 
Bullard, Mrs., mother-in-law of 

Henry Ward Beecher, 1 27 
Bullard, Eunice, see Beecher, 

Eunice Bullard 

Bulwer-Lytton, Sir Edward, 190 
Burbage, Richard, actor, 215 
Burgoyne, General, 179 
Burley, William, 305 
Burnet, Professor, 228 
Burr, Aaron, 270, 280, 303 
Burton, 217 

Butler, congressman, 138 
Butler, stepfather of Anne Royall, 

Butler, Mrs., mother of Anne 

Royall, 247-8 
Butler, General Benjamin Franklin, 


Butler, Charles, 175, 268 
Butler, James, half-brother of Anne 

Royall, 247 

Byrd, Admiral Richard E., 242 
Byrd Expedition, 7 
Byrnes, Thomas, police inspector, 


Byron, Lady, 135 
Byron, Lord, 15, 135 

Cabinet: or, Large Parties in 

Washington, The, 265 
California State Assembly, 164 
Calvert, William, see Newport, 

Calvinism, 20, 258 



Carlotta, Empress of Mexico, 30 

Carlyle, Jane, 189 

Carlyle, Thomas, 68, 114, 174-5, 
1 88, 195-6, 199, 205, 268; quoted, 
189-91, 204 

Carroll, Lewis, 99 

Carter, Ohio judge, 133 

Gary, Henry, editor, 55 

Casanova, 15 

Castiglione, Contessa Nicchia de, 29 

Cato, quoted, 44 

Cecil, Lord David, quoted, 13-14 

Central Pacific Railroad, 162, 165 

Chambord, Count Henri de, 33, 36 

Champollion, Jean Francois, 270 

Chapman, George, 219 

Chester (New Hampshire), 298-300, 

Chettle, Henry, 219 

Chicago Times, 130 

Christian Apostolic Church, 6 

Christian Union, 135 

Chute, Marchette, quoted, 219 

Cincinnati National Intelligencer, 

Citizens' Party, 87 

Civil War (United States), 78-9 

Claflin, Buckman, see Claflin, Reu- 
ben Buckman 

Claflin, Reuben Buckman, father of 
Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee 
Claflin, 102, 107-8 

Claflin, Roxanna, mother of Vic- 
toria Woodhull and Tennessee 
Claflin, 107-8, 121 ; quoted, 120 

Claflin, Tennessee Celeste, 94, 102-3, 
no-ii, 114-15, 119, 133, 136-8, 
140-2, 146-7; quoted, 104, 121 

Clagget, M. E., Mason, 252-3 

Claiborne, congressman, 263 

Clark, P., student, 232; quoted, 235-6 

Clemens, Samuel, see Twain, Mark 

Cleveland Leader, 82, 121 

Clifford, Ebenezer, architect, 302 

Clinton, De Witt, governor, 255-6, 
258, 280 

Cluseret, General Gustave Paul, 90, 

Coates, Robert, actor, 17-18, 20 

Coffroth, James, Sr., 163 

Cogswell, Anna, actress, 109 

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 171; 
quoted, 170 

Columbian Exposition (Chicago, 
1893), 6, 96 

Columbus, Christopher, 5, 8 

Committee on Claims, 164 

Common Sense, 274 

Commonplace Book, 169 

Communist Manifesto, 114 

Comstock, Anthony, 25, 94, 137-8 

conformity, American, 20-4 

Congregational Ministerial Associa- 
tion, 184 

Congress (ship), 285 

Continental currency, 270-80, 289 

Cook, Francis, husband of Tennes- 
see Claflin, 146-7 

Cook, Mrs. Francis, see Claflin, 
Tennessee Celeste 

Cooper, James Fenimore, 109 

Corliss, George H., 312 

Cornbury, Lord, see Hyde, Edward 

Cornwallis, Lord, 278 

Cozzen's Hotel, 96 

Coyle, John, 259 

Credit Foncier, 83 

Credit Mobilier, 83 

Credit Mobilier of America, 83-6 

Cummings, E. E., 271 

Daily Racing Form, 218 

Darwin, Dr., 230 

Daudet, Alphonse, 28 

Davis, Jefferson, 69, 81, 162, 164 

Davis, Paulina Wright, 116-17 

Davis, Richard Harding, 47; quoted, 

41-2, 46, 56 
Davy, Sir H., 230 
Deer Island Bridge, see Essex 

Merrimack Bridge 
Delmonico, Charles, 114-15 
Demblon, Celestin, professor, 218 
Demosthenes, 100-1, ru, 113, 140-1 
Dentologta: A Poem on the Diseases 

of the Teeth, 269 
Derby, William Stanley, 6th earl of, 

218, 220 
"de Vere, Edward, see Oxford, . . . 

1 7th earl of 
Dexter, Elizabeth Frothingham, 

wife of Timothy Dexter, 277, 

293-6, 299, 304, 310-11 


The Square Pegs 

Dexter, Esther, sister of Timothy 
Dexter, 275 

Dexter, Esther Brintnall, mother of 
Timothy Dexter, 274-5 

Dexter, Nancy, daughter of Tim- 
othy Dexter, 277, 295-6, 304, 

Dexter, Nathan, father of Timothy 
Dexter, 274 

Dexter, Nathan, Jr., brother of 
Timothy Dexter, 275 

Dexter, Samuel, son of Timothy 
Dexter, 277, 293-6, 304, 311 

Dexter, Timothy (267-312): 23; 
A Pickle for the Knotting Ones, 
268; birth and childhood, 274-5; 
to Newburyport, 276; Continental 
currency investment, 279-82; buys 
Tracy house, 283; business ven- 
tures, 285-8; Essex Merrimack 
Bridge, 291; children, 295-6; buys 
Jackson house, 300-3; A Pickle 
for the Knowing Ones, 308; mock 
funeral, 310; death, 310; quoted , 
267, 260-70, 272, 275-6, 285-7, 
291-2, 297-300, 302 

Diaz, 1 66 

Dickens, Charles, 13 

Dictionary of American Biog- 
raphy, 213 

Disraeli, Benjamin, 12, 166, 171; 
quoted, 170 

Dobson, J., mathematician, 271 

Dodge, Granville M., 84 

Donnelly, Ignatius, Minnesota con- 
gressman, 25, 184, 195, 212, 214, 

Dorret family, 253 

Doubleday, Abner, 37 

Dougles, Norman, 19 

Douglass, Frederick, author, 133-4 

Dowie, John Alexander, faith 
healer, 6 

Dred Scott case, 154 

Drew, Daniel, 105 

Droeshout, Martin, engraver, 219 

Du Bois, Henri Pene, reporter, 
quoted, 54-5 

Dudley, 217 

Dumas, Alexandre, 29, 91 

Dunmore, Lord, 248 

Durant, Thomas Clark, railroad 

builder, 84 
Dyer, Sir Edward, 218 

Ealer, George, 214 

Eaton, John, senator, 259-60 

Eaton, Peggy O'Neale Timber- 
lake, 259-60 

eccentric, definition of, lo-u 

eccentricity, English, 13-20 

Echo de Paris, 64 

Edison, Thomas Alva, 37, 96 

Elements of Geometry, The, 271 

Elizabeth, Queen, 187-8, 216-18 

Ellsrnere, Lord, 213 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 12, 68, 175, 
188-92, 195, 273-4; quoted, 12, 
173-4, 193-4 ^ 

Emerson, William, brother of Ralph 
Waldo Emerson, 194 

Emperor Norton, 161 

Equal Rights Party, 87, 132, 134 

Erie Railroad, 76, 105 

Esperanto, 112 

Essays, 198 

Essex Merrimack Bridge, 291, 
303-4, 3ii 

Eugenie, Empress, 30, 69, 75, 158 

Euler, Leonhard, mathematician, 

Eureka Lodging House, 158 

Euthanasia; the Aesthetics of Sui- 
cide, 42, 60 

Euthanasia Society, 42 

Evans, Thomas W., 34 

Everleigh sisters, of Chicago, 105 

Exit Shakspere, 215 

Faerie Queene, The, 188 

faith healing, see Dowie, James 
Alexander, and Claflin, Ten- 

Farelly, congressman from Penn- 
sylvania, 225 

Farquhar, John, munitions dealer, 

Farrar, Eliza, author, 172, 181, 199, 
203-4; quoted, 172, 202 

Feminin Monarchi, or the Histori 
of Bees, The, 268 

Fenian Insurrection (Ireland), 90 

Feroe, Caroline, 15 



Fierpepin's Metamorphosis, 32 

First Folio, 169, 171, 216-17 

Fish, Hamilton, Secretary of State, 


Fisher, Alexander M., teacher, 177 
Flagler, Anna, see Harden-Hickey, 

Anna Flagler 
Flagler, John Haldane, father of 

Anna Flagler, 57-8; quoted, 47, 59 
Flaubert, 29 

Flying Cloud (clipper ship), 68 
Fogg, Phileas, 63-6, 89, 92, 94, 97 
Fort "Erie, 227, 241 
Fort Sumter, 78 
Fox, Katherine and Margaret, 

spiritualists, 109 
Franco-Prussian War, 61, 162 
Franklin, Benjamin, 256, 297, 302-3 
Franklin, William, 274 
Fr user's Magazine, 190, 204 
Frederick the Great, 188 
French Revolution, 188 
Frothingham, Benjamin, first hus- 
band of Elizabeth Frothingham 

Dexter, 277 
Fruits of Conceit and Flowers of 

Nonsense, 16 
Fugitive Slave Law, 173 
Fuller, Margaret, author, 180, 196 
funding plan, 281-2 

Gambetta, Leon, 61-2, 90-2 

Gardner, Marshall B., author, 241 

Garnett, Richard, author, 16 

Garrick, David, actor, 17, 169 

George III, King, 150, 165, 284, 303 

Gibson, Charles Dana, 56 

Gilman, governor of New Hamp- 
shire, 303 

Glass, Francis, 269 

Golden Age, 123 

Golden Age Tract, 129 

Goldsmith, Oliver, 12 

Gompers, Samuel, quoted, 101, 115 

Goncourts, 29 

Grant, Jesse R., no 

Grant, Ulysses S., 86-8, 91, 106, 
1 10, 139, 149, 162 

Great American Crank, see Train, 
George Francis 

Great Britain, 51-2, 57 

Great Cryptogram, The, 214, 217 

Great Republic (ship), 89 

Great Tower, see Beckford, Wil- 

Greeley, Horace, editor, 87-8, 109, 
125, 135; quoted, 121 

Greeley, Mrs. Horace, 121 

Green, H. E., 73 

Green, Hetty, 22, 74 

Groombridge and Sons, publishers, 
206, 209 

Halley, Edmund, astronomer, 229, 

Hamilton, Alexander, 281-2, 302 

Hamilton, Lady Emma, 16 

Hancock, John, 280-2, 302-3 

Hannastown, 247 

Harden, Antoine de, 28 

Harden, Jacques de, 28 

Harrington: A Story of True Love, 

Harris, H. E., stamp firm, 50 

Hart, Joseph C., author, quoted, 

Harte, Bret, 163 

Hathaway, Anne, 185 

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 68, 171, 175, 
186, 195-6, 198, 203-4, 206, 214, 
220-1; quoted, 197, 199-202, 205, 
207-9, 212-13, 222 

Hawthorne, Sophia, wife of Na- 
thaniel Hawthorne, 201, 213; 
quoted, 209 

Harden-Hickey, Anna H. Flagler, 
wife of James Aloysius Harden- 
Hickey, 40-1, 60 

Harden-Hickey, James Aloysius 
(25-60): plans concerning Trini- 
dad, 26-7; birth and childhood, 
28-9; schooling abroad, 30; pub- 
lishes as Saint-Patrice, 31-2; editor 
of Le Triboulet, 34-6; and The- 
osophy, 37-8; visits Trinidad, 39- 
40; marriage, 41; Euthanasia pub- 
lished, 42; claims Trinidad, 45-57; 
suicide, 58; quoted, 25-8, 30, 35, 
37-8, 40, 43-6, 48-9, 51-3, 58, 60 

Haussmann, Baron, 30 

Hays, John, first husband of Mary 

Hays McCauley, 305 
Hazlitt, author, 199 
Hearn, Lafcadio, 93 


The Square Pegs 

Hecock, shopkeeper, 256 

Heine, 12 

Henry II, King, 28 

Henry, Patrick, 248 

Henry IV, 217 

Henshaw, Sarah, quoted, 181 

Henslowe, Philip, theater owner, 


Hepworth, George, 269 
Herndon House, Omaha hotel, 95-6 
Heth, Joyce, 263 
Hetzel, Pierre Jule, publisher, 63 
Hickey, E. C., father of James 

Harden-Hickey, 28 
Hickey, Mrs. E. C., mother of 

James Harden-Hickey, 60 
Hill, Frank Ernest, author, quoted, 


Hilton, Henry, judge, 124 
History of New York, A, 267 
History of Newburyport, 273 
History of the World, The, 198 
Hobson, Dr. Richard, quoted, 19 
Hoffman, Calvin, author, 218 
Hoffman House (headquarters for 

Woodhull, Claflin and Co.), 104 
Holberg, Baron, 229 
Hollow Globe, A, 240 
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, quoted, 

Holy Trinity Church (Stratford), 


Homer, 170 
Homer (Ohio), 107 
Hooker, Isabella Beecher, 116-18, 


Hooper, Madam, fortuneteller, 304 
Home, Charles F,, quoted, 64 
Howard, Elizabeth, barmaid, 29 
Hugo, Victor, 28 
Hull, Moses, 133 
Humanitarian, The, 145-6 
Humboldt, Baron Alexander von, 


Huntress, The, 265-6 
Hyde, Edward, governor of New 

York, 22 

Illustrations of Masonry, 254 
Independent, 125 
Independent Democrats, 87 
Ingersoll, Robert, 124 

Innocents Abroad, 163 
International Workingman's Associ- 
ation, 115 
Ipswich jail, 295 
Irving, Washington, 267 

Jackson, Andrew, 238, 260, 262 

Jackson, Holbrook, author, 268 

Jackson, Jonathan, partner of Na- 
thaniel Tracy, 283-4, 300-1, 312 

Jaggard, William and Isaac, printers, 

James I, of Trinidad, see Harden- 
Hickey, James Aloysius 

James II, King, 28 

Janssen, Gerard, 219 

Jay, John, 302 

Jefferson, Joseph, 265 

Jefferson, Thomas, 249, 257, 281-2, 

303, 312 
Johnson, Richard M., congressman 

from Kentucky, 223-5, *3i 263 
Jonson, Ben, 188, 194, 211, 217, 

219; quoted, 193 
Jordan, Maggie, mistress of William 

Sharkey, 94-5 

Joshua Norton and Company, 152 
Journey to the Center of the Earth, 


Journey to the Earth's Interior, 241 
Joyce, James, 271 
Julius Ccesctr, 188 

Kahn, Dr. Eugen, professor of psy- 
chiatry, ii 

Kant, 12 

Kelley, Dr. E. G., 312 

King, Rufus, 302 

King Lear, 148, 211 

Knapp, Samuel Lorenzo, author, 
273, 279, 287, 290, 295; quoted, 280, 
294, 300-2, 309 

Knight, E. F., 39 

Kyd, Thomas, 219 

La Boissiere, Count de, 27, 38, 41, 
46-7, 49-Si, 5<5; quoted, 53-5 

Lafayette, 248, 265, 280 

Lampre, ML, 35 

Lancaster, Lucy, 305 

Lane, Allen Stanley, author, 161 

Lawrence, Herbert, surgeon, 
quoted, 169, 171 

( vi) 


Lee, 162 

Lefranc, Abel, professor, 218 
Leicester, Earl of, 171, 185, 188, 197 
Leslie, Sir John, mathematician, 229, 


Letters from Alabama, 257 
Letters from a Yank, 32 
Life and Adventures of Common 
Sense: an Historical Allegory, 
The, 169 

Life of George Washington, 267 
Life of Timothy Dexter, 280 
"Light Between The Spheres," 231 
Liliuokalani, Queen of Hawaii, 57 
Lincoln, 78-9, 82, 162 
Lincoln (alleged telegram), 164 
Lincoln-Douglas debates, 154 
Lincoln Hall (Wash., D.C.), 118 
Lind, Jenny, 263 
Lindner, Dr. Robert, quoted, 21 
London American, 78 
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 149 
Looney, J. Thomas, teacher, 218 
Lord, John, father-in-law of Tim- 
othy Dexter, 277 
Louis XIV, 268 
Louis XV, 29 
Louis XVI, 303 
Louisville Courier, 70 
Louisville Courier-Journal, 138 
L'Ouverture, Toussaint, 303 
Love in Society, A, 31 
Love in Vendee, A, 33 
"Love's Martyr," 179 
Love's Labour's Lost, 208 
Lucy, Sir Thomas, 185 
Ludlow Street Jail, 137, 139 
Lundy's Lane, battle of, 227, 241 
Lyceum of Self Culture, 161 
Lyons, W. F., professor, 240 
Lytton, Lord, see Bulwer-Lytton, 

McBride, James, 234; quoted, 235 
McCauley, George, 305 
McCauley, Mary Hays, seer, 304-5 
McClellan, General, 90 
McCormick, Cyrus H., 83 
McCrea, Jane, 179 
McGill, James, revolutionary leader 

in Australia, 72-3 
McHenry, James, 76 

McKay, Donald, shipbuilder, 68 

McWhorter, Alexander, 181-5 

Macy, William H., 83 

Madison, Dolly, 258 

Magellan, 8 

Maiden (Massachusetts), 274-5, 311 

Maltby firm, 179 

Manners, Roger, see Rutland, . . . 

1 5th earl of 

Maria Cristina of Spain, Queen, 75-6 
Marie Antoinette, 29, 301 
Markowe, Ralston J., Hawaiian 

Royalist, 57, 59 
Marlowe, Christopher, 216-18 
Marquand, J. P., quoted, 274 
Martin, John Biddulph, husband of 

Victoria Woo dhull, 143-5; quoted, 

Martin, Victoria Claflin Woodhull, 

see Woodhull, Victoria Claflin 
Martin, William, minister, 249 
Marx, Karl, 62, 115 
Mason, James, 80-1 
Mathela, 268 
Mather, Cotton, 229 
Maupassant, Guy de, 28 
Mavrockadatis (ship), 81 
Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, 30, 


Mechanic's Library (San Fran- 
cisco), 1 60 
Mehitabel (brig), 285 
Melbourne, 13 
Memphis Appeal, 136 
Merchants' Magazine, 74 
Meres, Francis, 219 
Mesmer, Friedrich, 107 
"Metzengerstein," 179 
Milesius of Spain, King, 28 
Mill, John Stuart, 24, 141, 212; 

quoted, 24 

Miller, William, preacher, 22 
Miller's Station, 247 
Mills, Darius Ogden, 97 
Milton, 170 

Mitchel, Dr. S. L,, 230 
Monarch Of The Seas (clipper 

ship), 68 
Monroe, 223, 244 
Monroe Doctrine, 52 
Montagu, Edward Wortley, 14-1 5, 


The Square Pegs 

Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley, 14 

Montaigne, 198-9 

Montgomery, Earl of, 168-9 

Morgan, William, bricklayer, 254-7 

Morgan, Lodge and Fisher, publish- 
ers, 234 

Morison, Samuel Eliot, quoted, 

Morse, Mrs. Nathan B., mother of 
Elizabeth Tilton, 127 

Mozart, Wolfgang, 15 

Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, 
Histories , <& Tragedies, 168 

"Ms. Found in a Bottle," 239 

Mulliken, partner of Timothy Dex- 
ter, 277 

Murdock, Charles A., printer, 157 

Must You Conform?, 21 

My Life in Many States and in For- 
eign Lands, 97 

Napoleon I, see Bonaparte, Napo- 

Napoleon III, see Bonaparte, Louis- 

"Narrative of A. Gordon Pym," 240 

Nast, Thomas, 88 

National Aegis, 273 

National Woman's Suffrage Associa- 
tion, 116 

Nebraskan, The, 85 

Nelson, Horatio, 268, 303 

Nesmyth, senator from Oregon, 82 

New England Religious Weekly, 
The, 265 

New York and Harlem Railroad, 

New York by Gas Light, 109 

New York Central Railroad, 103, 

New York Herald, 32, 73, 81, 103-4, 
106, 113 

New England Historical and Gen- 
ealogical Register, 274, 281 

New York Observer, 125 

New York Sun, 84, 91 

New York Times, 46, 49, 54-5, 59, 
88, 122, 138 

New York Tribune, 25-7, 45-7, 49, 
53-4, 59, 87, 121 

New York World, 64, 92-3, 122-3 

Newburyport (Massachusetts), 268, 
270, 272, 276-80, 282-94, 297-8, 300, 
302, 304, 306, 308, 310-11 

Newburyport Impartial Herald, 
273, 290, 297-8, 308 

Newcastle (England), 288-90 

Newport, William, father of Anne 
Royall, 246-7 

Newton, Sir Isaac, 228 

Norton, John, father of Joshua 
Norton, 150, 165 

Norton, Joshua Abraham (148-167) : 
98-9; birth and childhood, 150; to 
California, 151-2; declared bank- 
rupt, 154; proclaims himself Em- 
peror, 155; issues Bonds of the 
Empire, 1 57 , taxes business houses, 
158; civic funeral, 166; quoted, 
148, 155-7, 1^2-3 

Norton, Sarah, mother of Joshua 
Norton, 150 

Nothing, 268 

Novum Organum, 189 

Nye, senator, 82 

Oakland Daily News, 162 
Occidental Lodge F. & A. M., 158 
O'Connor, William Douglas, 214 
O'Conor, Charles, attorney, 87-8 
Ohio and Mississippi Railroad, 76 
Ohio Archaeological and Histori- 
cal Quarterly, 235 
Olcott, Henry, lawyer, 36-7 
Olney, Richard, Secretary of State, 


On Liberty, 24 

Orations of Defnosthenes, 101 

Origin, Tendencies, and Principles 
of Government, 113 

Osbourne, Lloyd, 163, 166 

Owen, Orville W., Detroit physi- 
cian, 217 

Our Old Home, 222 

Our Writers, 28 

Oxford, Edward de Vere, i7th earl 
of, 187, 210, 216, 218, 220 

Pacific Club (San Francisco), 154 
Pacific Union Club, 166 
Paganini, 12 

Paget, Lord, 187, 210, 216 
Paine, Thomas, 249, 274 

( viii ) 


Palmer, Joseph, 22 

Palmer, N. B., 238 

Palmerston, Lord, 213 

Pantarchy, 113 

Parker, publisher, 204-6" 

Parnell, 166 

Parson Pidgin: or, Holy Kissing) 


Pascal, 12 

Paul Pry, 260, 262, 265 
Peabody, Elizabeth, sister-in-law of 

Nathaniel Hawthorne, 175, 195, 


Peale, Charles Wilson, painter, 20 
Peak, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, 

and Titian, sons of Charles Peale, 


Pearl, Cora, 29 
Peary, 242 

Peck, John W., quoted, 231-2, 239 
Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil, 148- 


Pembroke, Countess of, 216 
Pembroke, Earl of, 168 
Pendleton, Captain B., 238 
Pennsy Ivania, 257 
Perrere, Emile and Isaac, financiers, 


Perry, Oliver Hazard, 227 
Perry, Commodore Matthew, 73 
Petaluma (California), 164 
Philadelphia Press, 107 
Philadelphia Saturday Courier, 179 
Philadelphia Times, 182 
Philosophical Society (London) 

Philosophy of The Plays of Shak- 

spere Unfolded, The, 208, 212 
Pickle for the Knowing Ones: or 

Plain Truths in a- Homespun 

Dress, A, 268-71, 273-4, 285, 

297, 308 

Pickwick Papers, The, 262 
Pierce, Franklin, 195, 244, 266 
Pilgrim's Progress, 268 
Pitcher, Molly, see McCauley, 

Mary Hays 

Pitman, Isaac, 112, 268 
Pitt, William, 303 
Pius VII, Pope, 19 
Plummer, Jonathan, poet, 305, 312; 

quoted, 306-8 

Plymouth Church (Brooklyn), 124, 


Poe, Edgar Allan, 12, 179, 239-40 
Pope, Alexander, poet, 187 
Port Elizabeth (South Africa), 150 
Potter, Charles F., 42 
Priestess of the Occult, 37 
Prohibition Party, 87 
Punch, 33 
Putnam, Israel, 274 
Putnam's Magazine, 175, 190 
Putnam's Monthly, 192-5, 213 

Raleigh, Sir Walter, 172, 175, 187- 

8, 194, 198, 210, 216 
Randolph, John, 245, 274 
Recollections of Seventy Years, 172 
Retreat, The (Hartford, Connecti- 
cut), 221 

Revolution, The, 127 
Reymart, New York judge, 132 
Reynolds, Jeremiah N., 238-9 
Reynolds, John N., 239 
Rice, David, quoted, 220 
Richard HI, 216 
Ripley, Sophy, 194 
Riverside (California), 58, 60 
Roane, William R., attorney, 251 
Robertson, partner of Joshua Nor- 
ton, 152 
Robertson, John Mackinnon, 

quoted, 218 
Robinson, Henry Morton, quoted, 


Romance of Yachting, The, 170 
Romanozov, Count, 238 
Romeo and Juliet, 17 
Roosevelt, Theodore, 147 
Rosetta stone, 270 
Ross, Sir James, explorer, 7 
Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 9, 268 
Routledge, publisher, 198, 201 
Royal Society of London, 229 
Royal Statistical Society, 145 
Royall, Anne Newport (243-266): 
23; interview with John Quincy 
Adams, 243-4; birth and child- 
hood, 246-8; marriage, 249; wid- 
owed, 250; begins travels, 251; 
publication of first book, 254; 
helped by Masons, 256; founds 
Paul Pry, 260; meets Barnum, 263; 


The Square Pegs 

Royall (continued} 

founds The Huntress, 265; death, 

266; quoted, 243-5, *48-9i 251-3, 

257-8, 260-6 
Royall, William, husband of Anne 

Newport Royall, 248-9, 251, 265; 

quoted, 250 
Ruggles, Benjamin, Ohio senator, 


Russel, Thomas, merchant, 280-2 
Russell, Lillian, 96 
Russell, William H., quoted, 79-80 
Rutland, Roger Manners, i5th earl 

of, 218, 220 

Sachs, Emanie, author, 139 
Sade, Marquis de, 38 
Sage, Russell, 12 
St. Albans, 174, 190-1 
St. Louis Times, no 
Saint-Patrice, see Harden-Hickey, 

James Aloysius 
Saint Paul's Church (Newbury- 

port), 292 

Saint-Pery, Countess de, 31 
Salamanca, Jose de, banker, 75-6 
Sally, see Stack, Sarah 
San Francisco Bay Bridge, 162 
San Francisco Bulletin, 154, 156 
San Francisco Chronicle, 166 
San Francisco Herald, 99 
San Jacinto (ship), 80 
San Martin, General, liberator of 

Peru, 39 

Saratoga Hotel boycott, 124 
Saturday Evening Post, 214 
Saturday Review, 49-50, 56-7 
Sauvaitre, L., publisher, 37 
Scott, Major General, 156 
Seaborn, Captain Adam, pseudo- 
nym, 236 
Second Presbyterian Society (New- 

buryport), 292 
Seligman, Joseph, 124 
Selwyn, George, 13 
Seraph (brig), 238-9 
Seven Shakespeares, 216 
Seward, Secretary of State, 78, 81 
Seymour, J., publisher, 236 
Shakespeare, William, 17, 42, 168-75, 
185-6, 188-90, 192-5, 197-204, 206- 

Shakespeare (continued) 

8, 210-13, 215-19, 221-2; quoted, 

1 68 (alleged) 
Shakespeare Problem Solved, The, 

Shakespearean Society (England), 


Sharkey, William J., 94-5 
Shaw, George Bernard, 217 
Shelley, Mary, 10; quoted, 10 
Shepheardes Calender, The, 210 
Sherman, 84 

Shiloh House (Zion City), 5-6 
Sidney, Sir Philip, 187, 210 
Simon, Dr. Carlton, 99 
Sitwell, Edith, 13; quoted, 13 
Sketches of History, Life and Man- 
ners in the United States, by a 

Traveller, 254 

Slater, Gilbert, author, 216 
Slidell, John, 80-1 
Smith, Mrs. E. Vail, author, 308; 

quoted, 273, 200, 297 
Smith, Joseph, Mormon, 255 
Smith, Sydney, minister, 10, 14; 

quoted, 3, 9-10 
Smith, William Henry, author, 212, 


Smith weeke, John, editor, 168 
Social Contract, 268 
Something New, 312 
Soto, Benito de, pirate, 39 
Southard, Samuel L., Secretary of 

the Navy, 238 
Southern Tour, A, 257 
Souvenirs of a Gommeux, 30 
Spenser, Edmund, 172, 175, 187-8, 

208, 210, 217-18 
spiritualism, see Claflin, Tennessee, 

and Woodhull, Victoria 
Spitzka, Dr. Edward C., alienist, 99 
Spotted Tail, Indian chief, 133 
Stack, Sarah, editorial assistant to 

Anne Royall, 261-2 
Stanley, William, see Derby, . . . 

6th earl of 
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, 116-17, 

127, 130-1, 136 
Stein, Gertrude, 271 
Steinway Hall, 128-31 
Stevens, Thaddeus, politician, 255 


Stevenson, Robert Louis, 163, 166; 

quoted, 163 
Stowe, Harriet Beecher, author, 

135, 177 
Stratford on Avon (England) 168, 

174, 185, 192, 202-3, 206-7, 209, 


Strauss, Johann, 75 

Strong, Dr., minister, 310 

Strong, governor, 303 

Suffrage Association, 130, 132, 134 

suicide, see Euthanasia Society 

Sulgrave Manor (England), 146 

Sutter, John A., 150, 164 

Sutter Bill, 164 

Sweet Springs Mountain, 248 

Symmes, Americus Vespucius, son 

of John Cleves Symmes, 227, 


Symmes, John, judge, 226 
Symrnes, John Cleves (223-242): 23; 

proposes expedition to center of 

earth to Congress, 223; birth and 

childhood, 226; Army career, 227; 

theory of concentric spheres, 229; 

death, 239; quoted, 223, 228, 230, 


Symrnes's Cavity, 231 
Symmes's Hole, 231, 242 
Symmes Theory of Concentric 

Spheres, Demonstrating that the 

Earth Is Hollow, Habitable 

Within, and Widely Open 

About the Poles, 240 
Symmes* Theory of Concentric 

Spheres (by James McBride), 234 
"Symmes Theory of the Earth, 

The," 235 
Symzonia; a Voyage of Discovery, 


Tacoma Evening Ledger, 93 
Tales of the Puritans, 179 
Tallmadge (Ohio), 176-7 
Tammany Hall, 88 
Taylor, Nathaniel W., minister, 


Taylor, Zachary, 69 
Tehama House (San Francisco), 


Temps, Le, 63 
Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, 241 

Tennesseean, a Novel Founded on 
Facts, The, 254 

Terrett, Mrs., 203, 206 

Terrible Siren, The, 139 

Theobald, Bertram G., author, 215- 

"Theory of Concentric Spheres," 

Theosophical Society, 37 

Theosophist, The, 38 

Theosophy, 37-8 

Thiers, Adolphe, 61 

Thomas, Captain Thomas, pirate, 

Thompson, J. M., 29 

Thoreau, 12 

Tichnor and Fields, publishers, 209 

Tilton, Elizabeth Richards, wife of 
Theodore Tilton, 124-8, 136 

Tilton, Paul, son of Elizabeth Til- 
ton, 1 26 

Tilton, Theodore, 123-5, 127-30, 
135, 137-8; quoted, 108, in, 126 

Timberlake, Peggy O'Neale, see 
Eaton, Peggy O'Neale Timber- 

Times, London, 39, 79, 91, 144, 19* 

To Meet Will Shakespeare, 219 

Todd, William C., 280, 290; quoted, 
277, 281, 289 

Tour du monde en quatre-vingts 
jours, Le, 65 

Townsend, George H., scholar, 212 

Tracy, Nathaniel, merchant, 283-4, 
293, 300 

Tracy house, 298 

Train, Elsey, son of George Fran- 
cis Train, 71 

Train, Colonel Enoch, second cou- 
sin of George Francis Train, 67, 

Train, George, son of George Fran- 
cis Train, 71 

Train, George Francis (61-99): 23; 
around the world, 62; Phileas 
Fogg, 63-5; birth and childhood, 
66-7; in shipping business, 67-70; 
to Australia, 70-3; further travels, 
73-6; promotes railroads in Great 
Britain, 76-8; promotes Union Pa- 
cific Railroad and Credit Mobilier 
of America, 83-5; enters politics, 


The Square Pegs 

86-8; around the world, 89-92; 

death, 99, 147; quoted, 61, 65-9, 

75, 78, 81-4, 88-93, 95~9 
Train, Susan (later Gulagcr), 

daughter of George Francis 

Train, 71 
Train, Wilhelmina Wilkinson Davis, 

wife of George Francis Train, 

69, 82 

Train and Company, shippers, 67-8 
Train Ligne, The, 94 
Train's Penny Magazine, 97 
Trent (ship), 79-80, 82 
Triboulety Le, 34-6 
Trinidad, 26-7, 39, 45, 48, 50-2 
Trollope, Mrs., author, 257 
Troppmann, 29 
Truth Seeker Company, 42 
Tucker, Benjamin R., student, 

quoted, 139-40 

Turner, Bessie, 125; quoted, 126 
Tussaud, Madame, 29 
Twain, Mark, 160, 163; quoted, 163, 

Tweed, William Marcy ("Boss"), 88 

Uncle Tom's Cabin, 124, 135 
Union Pacific Railroad, 83-5, 89 
University of California (Berke- 
ley), 148-9 

"Unparalleled Adventure of One 
Hans Pfall, The," 239-40 

Van Buren, Martin, 263-4 

Vanderbilt, Commodore Cornelius, 
83, 102, 104-6, 111-12, 114, 134-5, 
141-2; quoted, 103 

Vanderbilt, Cornelius, Jr., 141 

Vanderbilt, Frank C., wife of Cor- 
nelius Vanderbilt, 106 

Vanderbilt, William, son of Corne- 
lius Vanderbilt, 141-2 

Vathek, 15 

Venetia, 170 

Verne, Jules, 61-6, 89, 240 

Victoria, Queen, 147, 164 

Victoria League, 131 

Voliva, Wilbur Glenn (3-9): Zion 
City, 3; birth and childhood, 6; 
conception of the earth as flat, 
7-8, 22; quoted, 3, 7-8 

Voltaire, 9, 249-50 
Voyages Extraordinaires, 63 

Walker, greengrocer, 191, 198 

Walker, Mary, doctor, 25 

Wallace, Alfred Russel, 37 

Walpole, Horace, quoted, 15 

Walton Hall, see Waterton, Charles 

Washington, George, 146, 244, 248, 
256-7, 263, 267-8, 270, 278, 281, 
302-3, 312 

Washington Capital, 88 

Washington Star, 266 

Washington Vita, 269 

Waterton, Charles, 18-20 

Watson, physician, 238 

Watterson, Henry, librarian of Con- 
gress, 259 

Wayne, Anthony, 305 

Webster, Daniel, 68-9, 99, 280 

Weems, Mason, 267 

What Would Christ Do About 
Syphilis?, 42 

Whatcom (Washington), 93-4 

Whiston, author, 228 

White, Richard Grant, scholar, 195 

Whitman, Walter, 12, 193, 214, 


Wilkes, Captain Charles, 80-1 
William IV, of England, 165 
William of Orange, 28 
Williams, Mrs. Delia, 177-8 
Williams, Gertrude Marvin, quoted, 


Wilson, Joseph, artist, 302-3 
Wilson, Woodrow, 146 
Woodhull, Byron, son of Victoria 

Woodhull, 109 
Woodhull, Dr. Canning, husband of 

Victoria Woodhull, 108-9, m 


Woodhull, Victoria Claflin (100- 
147): 23, 87-8; leaves Pittsburgh, 
too; to New York, 101; meets 
Vanderbilt, 102; opens brokerage 
house, 103-6; birth and child- 
hood, 1 06-8; marriage to Wood- 
hull, 108; meets Blood, no; founds 
Weekly, 113; Beecher-Tilton case, 
123-30; nomination for President, 
133; Beecher-Tilton case, 135-9; 
marriage to Martin, 142; death in 



Woodhull (continued) Woodward, Professor, 228 

England, 147; quoted, 94, 100, 106- Wrecker, The, 163 

7, 117, 119, 120-3, 129-30, 132-3, Wyatt, James, architect, 16 

Woodhull, Zulu Maud, daughter of yellow fever epidemic (New Or- 

Victoria Woodhull, 109, 146 leans, 1833), 66 

Woodhull & Claftirfs Weekly, 113- Yerba Buena, 163 
14, 121-2, 131, 134, 136, 141, 143 

Woodhull, Claflin and Company, Zion City (Illinois), 3-8 

brokerage house, 103, 105 Ziorfs Herald, 66 

( xiii ) 

In/ing Wallace 

<was born in Chicago in iyi6 and raised in Kenosha, 
Wisconsin. Since he sold his first article (he 'was 
fifteen), he has been a working writer, and he now 
always has several book projects in hand in addition 
to motion-picture and magazine work. He some- 
how manages also to find free time for his other 
interests, which include art, literature, sports, poli- 
tics, and criminology. His enduring fascination 
with bizarre personalities in history led to his writ- 
ing The Fabulous Originals, his first and immedi- 
ately successful book, as well as to the writing of 
The Square Pegs. Mr. Wallace lives in Hollywood, 
is married, md is the father of two children. 


The text of this book was set on the Linotype in 
JANSON, a recurring made direct from the type 
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His type is an excellent example of the in- 
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